After securing its first true road victory of the season on Saturday at DePaul, the St. John’s men’s basketball team will kick off a two-game homestand when it welcomes No. 8/10 Villanova to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. on FS1 with Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery on the call from “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” Fans can also catch the action on the Red Storm Sports Network from Learfield IMG College with John Minko and Vin Parise narrating the action. That broadcast can be found on 570 AM WMCA, Sirius XM and TuneIn.
The Red Storm (13-8, 2-6 BIG EAST) will look to improve to 3-1 this season at Madison Square Garden when it hosts the Wildcats (16-3, 6-1 BIG EAST). Two of the Red Storm’s previous three MSG opponents also find themselves in the top 15 of this week’s Associated Press poll, as West Virginia, a team to whom the Johnnies handed their first loss of the season, climbed to no. 12 on Monday. Seton Hall, to whom the Red Storm lost in a heartbreaker on Jan. 18, maintained its spot in the rankings at no. 10.
Coming off their third Quad One win of the season on Saturday in Chicago, the Johnnies will look to top a Villanova team that rose one spot to no. 8 in the AP poll and sits at no. 14 in the NET. The Red Storm rose from no. 81 to no. 66 in the NET by virtue of its victory in The Windy City. As it stands through Monday’s release of the rankings, 13 of the Red Storm’s 18 BIG EAST games currently qualify as a Quad One contest.
The Red Storm has enjoyed more success against Villanova over the past two years than any other program in the BIG EAST, twice splitting the regular season series with the three-time reigning BIG EAST champs. In February of 2018, the Johnnies topped the No. 1 Wildcats to pick up the program’s first win over a top-ranked team since 1985. This past February at Madison Square Garden, the Johnnies erased a 19-point first-half deficit en route to a 71-65 victory over No. 13 Villanova behind 22 points and 12 rebounds from LJ Figueroa.
Figueroa is coming off the highest scoring outing of his St. John’s tenure in the team’s win over DePaul, as the junior wing posted a career-best 28 points to lead the Red Storm. The Lawrence, Mass., native went 7-of-12 from beyond the arc, finishing one shy of the program record for made triples and becoming just the seventh Johnnie in team history to hit seven or more threes in a single game. For his efforts, Figueroa, who also scored 13 points against Marquette on Tuesday, was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor for the second time this season on Monday.
Figueroa was one of two Johnnies to crack the 20-point plateau on Saturday, as Mustapha Heron went 4-for-9 from three-point range and sank all six of his free throw tries en route to a 20-point finish. The outing marked his first time scoring 20 or more points since going down with a right ankle sprain on Dec. 10 against Brown. After averaging 9.3 points per appearance in his first four games post-injury, Heron has looked more like his old self over the past three games, averaging 18.7 points per outing while shooting 47.4 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from three-point range. Heron is also a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity stripe since the Seton Hall loss.
Villanova, which has won two of the last four national championships, earned its sixth consecutive victory on Saturday by outlasting Providence, 64-60, on the road. Collin Gillespie, who is averaging 16.7 points per game on the team’s current winning streak, scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday. Gillespie, the only active Villanova player to average more than 12 minutes per game on the 2018 national championship team, leads the team in both scoring (15.1 ppg) and assists (4.6 per game).
Sophomore forward Saddiq Bey, the team’s second leading scorer at 14.9 points per game, ranks second in league with a 45.7 percent success rate from beyond the arc. As a team, Villanova ranks 28th in Division I with 9.5 made triples per game.
The Wildcats also boast one of the league’s top rebounders, as freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl ranks fourth in the conference with 9.4 boards per contest. The Overland Park, Kan., native has won each of the last three BIG EAST Freshman of the Week awards.
Beginning with Tuesday’s tilt against the Wildcats, the Red Storm will play four of its next five games at home with three of those contests coming at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” The Johnnies will play host to Georgetown on Feb. 2 before welcoming Providence to Carnesecca Arena on Feb. 12 and Xavier to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 17. The Red Storm will also travel to Creighton for a game on Feb. 8 during that stretch.
Tickets for all St. John’s home games at Madison Square Garden and Carnesecca Arena are available by visiting RedStormTix.com or calling the St. John’s Ticket Office at 1-888-GO-STORM.
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