College Basketball Nation: Phil Greene

NEW YORK -- A quick look at Villanova's 66-53 victory Wednesday night over St. John's in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden:

What it means: Villanova is headed to the Big East quarterfinals -- and the NCAA tournament. St. John's is headed to the NIT at best.

Villanova (20-12) might not have needed this win, but it should seal an at-large bid to the Big Dance. St. John's (16-15), which was an NCAA bubble team until late February, has now lost five games in a row and is 0-4 since the suspension of leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison.

The turning point: You can divide the first half in two. Villanova jumped out to an 18-6 lead on a JayVaughn Pinkston layup with 9:37 remaining. But St. John's outscored the Wildcats 18-6 the rest of the half, capped off by a Christian Jones lay-in with 32 seconds left. The game was tied at 24 at intermission.

The game remained tight early in the second half. St. John's was still within five, 50-45 with just under seven minutes remaining, after five straight points by Phil Greene. But Villanova responded with seven consecutive points to match its largest lead, 57-45, and put the game away from there. The Red Storm played well defensively, but they just couldn't match the Wildcats at the other end.

Star watch: Mouphtaou Yarou had a big game for Villanova with 18 points, shooting 9-for-10 from the field. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono scored 15 points but committed eight turnovers. Pinkston had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Greene had 16 points to lead St. John's. Jakarr Sampson, named the Big East Rookie of the Year on Tuesday, had 13 points and nine rebounds but shot just 5-for-18 from the field.

Number crunch: St. John's struggled in the shooting department without Harrison, yet again. The Red Storm were 21-for-59 from the field (35.6 percent), 2-for-11 from deep (18.2 percent) and 9-for-14 from the foul line (64.3 percent). They also uncharacteristically committed 17 turnovers.

What's next: Villanova will play No. 2 seed Louisville on Thursday at 7 p.m.

St. John's goes home and waits to see if it gets invited to the NIT, CBI or CIT.
What it means: Steve Lavin is back, and his team is off to a promising start.

After missing almost all of last season while recovering from prostate cancer, Lavin officially made his return to the sideline Tuesday afternoon. And St. John’s won its regular-season opener against Detroit, 77-74, at Carnesecca Arena.

Three highly touted freshmen made their St. John’s debuts -- forwards Jakarr Sampson and Christian Jones, and center Chris Obekpa. All three made positive contributions -- particularly Obekpa. But the key to the victory was the play of three returning sophomores -- D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene and Amir Garrett (see below).

The skinny: This game was very tight for most of the first half. The score was tied at 25 when Detroit first took control, reeling off nine straight to make it 34-25. The Titans led 37-29 at intermission.

Trailing 60-53 in the second half, St. John’s went on a 14-2 run, retaking the lead for the first time since the opening half with just under five minutes remaining. Down the stretch, a more experienced Detroit team unraveled, while the younger St. John’s squad showed poise and resilience.

St. John’s did get a scare in the game’s final sequence. Detroit scored a bucket, St. John’s gave the ball away, and Detroit’s Juwan Howard Jr. suddenly had a 3-point shot that would have tied the game. But the shot was off.

Star watch: Harrison, St. John’s leading returning scorer, came off the bench -- he was benched entirely for the team’s second exhibition game last week because the coaching staff felt he was having trouble controlling his emotions. Harrison looked lethargic when he first entered the game, but ratcheted up the intensity after halftime, when he scored 15 of his team-high 22 points.

Greene finished with a career-high 20, displaying an improved perimeter shot. Garrett had a double-double, with 15 points and 11 rebounds. And Obekpa had 7 points, 11 rebounds and 8 blocked shots. (That's a St. John's single-game record, breaking the previous mark of seven, set by Robert Werdann in 1989.)

Number crunch: St. John’s struggled on the glass, giving up 19 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points. But the Red Storm had 12 blocked shots as a team. Obekpa is going to be a game-changer on defense.

What's next: St. John’s heads to South Carolina to participate in the Charleston Classic. The Red Storm will play the host team, College of Charleston, on Thursday at 5 p.m. ET. They’ll play two more games there as well, on Friday and Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Arizona 81, St. John's 72

November, 18, 2011

NEW YORK -- A quick take on No. 16 Arizona's 81-72 win over St. John's on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in the second semifinal of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.

What it means: The Red Storm suffer their first loss of the season, in their first game at MSG after winning three games against mid-major competition at Carnesecca Arena last week. For six of the seven players in the St. John's rotation, it was their first game at the Garden; they proved they could play on the big stage, but couldn't close out the more experienced Wildcats (4-0) down the stretch.

The skinny: St. John's coach Steve Lavin was worried about his team displaying some nerves, but the young Red Storm looked comfortable on the big stage from the get-go. They did trail by as many as nine early, 19-10, but went on a 12-2 run to pull into the lead midway at the 9:24 mark. St. John's led by as many as six in the first half, 32-26, but gave the lead back and trailed 44-41 at the break.

St. John's fell behind by seven early in the second half, but responded with a 19-4 run, taking their biggest lead, 66-58, with 7:20 to play. But Arizona recovered from there. Leading scorer Nurideen Lindsey (18 points) fouled out with 4:02 left to play, just after the Wildcats had retaken the lead, and St. John's trailed the rest of the way.

Big nights: Besides Lindsey, D'Angelo Harrison had 16 points for St. John's -- 14 coming in the second half. Moe Harkless had 13 points and 9 rebounds, and Phil Greene had 12 points off the bench.

Solomon Hill led five Wildcats in double figures with 15 points.

Killer stat: Arizona shot 14-for-28 from beyond the 3-point arc -- that is awfully hard for any team to overcome. St. John's was just 3-for-8 from long range.

What's next: St. John's will play Texas A&M on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the consolation game of the tournament. Arizona will take on Mississippi State in the championship at 6:30 p.m. ESPN2 will televise both games.