Figueroa helps St. John's rally past No. 13 Villanova
LJ Figueroa scored a game-high 22 points and added 12 rebounds Sunday as St. John's rallied from a 19-point first-half deficit to upset No. 13 Villanova 71-65 at sold-out Madison Square Garden, giving the Red Storm a huge boost toward an NCAA at-large berth.
Figueroa also added four steals for St. John's (19-7, 7-6 Big East), which also got 19 points from Mustapha Heron and 13 from Justin Simon. Star guard Shamorie Ponds, who entered the day averaging 28.7 points per game over the last two seasons against the Wildcats, made only 2 of 14 shots from the field and was held to 11 points.
However, the Red Storm also kept both of Villanova's senior stars in check. Phil Booth hit just 2 of 11 shots from the floor and scored 13 points, while Eric
Paschall converted only 2 of 11 attempts and finished with 11, although he added 14 rebounds and four assists. Joe Cremo led the Wildcats with 14 points, and Saddiq Bey tallied 11.
Figueroa's 3-pointer with 3:52 left in the game gave St. John's a 58-57 lead. The Wildcats (20-6, 11-2) went scoreless for 3:50 while the Red Storm rattled off eight straight points. St. John's canned 12 consecutive foul shots in the last 1:24 to seal it.
The result reduced Villanova's Big East Conference lead on idle Marquette to a half-game.
Villanova dominated the first half, with the Wildcats defending well while St. John's couldn't make a shot if it stood on top of the rim and tried to throw it straight down.
Beginning with a Heron jumper and then three free throws by Booth at the 16:38 mark, Villanova embarked on a 24-6 run that gave it a 29-10 advantage. Booth teed up Paschall for a 3-pointer with 8:52 left that capped the spurt and put the Wildcats up by 19.
The margin was still 34-16 following a 3-ball by Bey with 3:25 remaining before the break when the Red Storm worked their way back into contention. They ended the half on a 10-3 run, with Simon sending them into the locker room with momentum after banking home a 70-footer to cut the margin to 37-26.
--Field Level Media
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