NEW YORK -- Villanova had been living large on the other side of the 3-point line. The eighth-ranked Wildcats had made 26 3s in their last two games and they shot better than 50 percent from beyond the arc in the wins over Providence and Seton Hall.
Things were different Saturday.With St. John's playing some tough perimeter defense, the Wildcats made just three of their 14 3-point attempts and down 56-55 with 7:44 to play."I thought St. John's played really well. Their defense was outstanding." Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "They did a great job of getting up on all of our people and challenging them."The Wildcats, who were doing a good job of scoring inside when the outside was dry, finally found a way to get going from the outside and a 10-1 run carried them to a 74-67 victory at Madison Square Garden.The Wildcats (15-1, 4-0 Big East) made two 3s in that run and both came off a big play by one of the team's leaders -- Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston."Players have to make plays and JayVaughn and Ryan did," Wright said. "I'm really proud of Jay to be a decision-maker not just a scorer. He kicked it out to Darren for a 3 that was a huge play."First, though, in the run was the play by Arcidiacono. He made a steal near midcourt and then took off for what looked to be a contested layup."They are a good shot-blocking team and I knew they were coming," the 6-foot-3 guard said. "I thought I could either get it punched or bring it out. I did the smart thing and saw Kris on the other side."Freshman Kris Jenkins, who is averaging just over a 3-pointer this season, buried the 3-pointer that started the 3-point run.Pinkston made his big play after he contributed two free throws to the run. He had the ball inside and rather than go up among a bunch of big men, he passed it out to Darrun Hilliard, whose 3 gave Villanova a 63-56 lead."We're a tough-minded team and that comes from Coach getting on us in practice and bringing us together," said Pinkston, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.The Wildcats came into the game having shot better than 50 percent from the field and 3-point range in their last three games. Against St. John's (9-6, 0-3) they struggled from both in the first half shooting 25.9 percent from the field (7 of 27) and 22.2 percent from 3 (2 of 9).The game was close through the first 12 minutes of the second half with neither team having more than a three-point lead until Villanova went on a 10-1 run that gave it a 65-57 lead with 3:13 to go."At the end they made enough plays and then some timely 3-point daggers,' St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "They made enough to get the win because we came up empty on our end."The Red Storm missed a lot of shots inside and they went 4:40 without a field goal during Villanova's game-deciding run.Josh Hart added 14 points for the Wildcats while Arcidiacono added 13.D'Angelo Harrison had 22 points for the Red Storm, who have lost three straight, while freshman Rysheed Jordan had 12."I expected to be 3-0 and our whole team expected to be 3-0," said JaKarr Sampson, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. "We have to play with energy and heart, play with a chip on our shoulder. We have to clean up a few things down the stretch. That's the main thing."Jenkins hit a 3 to start the big run and after two free throws by Pinkston, Hill hit his first 3 in five attempts to make it 63-56 and St. John's called a timeout. Harrison made one of two free throws and Hilliard capped the rally with two free throws with 3:13 left that made it 65-57.The Red Storm, who finished 2 of 11 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 48-39, got as close as four points the rest of the way.Villanova finished at 35.2 percent from the field (19 of 54) and 31.3 percent from 3-point range (5 of 16), breaking their streak of three consecutive games at 50 percent or better.Villanova's only loss this season was at No. 2 Syracuse.This was the 1,600th win for the Villanova program.