It wasn’t pretty, but Villanova held off St. John’s on Saturday for a 74-67 Big East win in Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats only shot 35 percent from the field in the win, but held St. John’s to 34 percent from the field and 2-for-12 from the three-point line as Villanova outlasted the Red Storm for the victory.
The Wildcats never led by more than nine points and through the first 14:30 of the second half, the game was within three points the entire time, but a 10-1 run catapulted Villanova to a lead they would never relinquish.
Playing in his hometown, JayVaughn Pinkston had a solid effort for Villanova, going for 15 points and 10 rebounds, and he was helped by a balanced Villanova effort that also saw freshman guard Josh Hart go for 14 points off the bench. Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono played 35 minutes and scored 13 points and Darrun Hilliard struggled to 1-for-1o shooting from the field, but finished with 10 points, as his three-pointer with a little over five minutes left in the second half gave the Wildcats its biggest lead of the game at 63-56.
Daniel Ochefu also added 10 points for the Wildcats and their balanced scoring and sound defensive effort was enough to get past St. John’s.
The win wasn’t pretty for Villanova, but Jay Wright has to be happy that his team was able to make one final push during a game in which they struggled offensively to earn the win. If three-pointers aren’t falling for Villanova — and they weren’t on Saturday, as the Wildcats shot 5-for-16 from beyond the arc — they can be in trouble, but by earning a road conference win over St. John’s it proved that Villanova’s defense can carry them to victory in some games in spite of poor perimeter shooting.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.