Red Storm defense nearly pulls upset against Villanova

St. John's D'Angelo Harrison reacts to a foul St. John's D'Angelo Harrison reacts to a foul called against him during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo Credit: AP / Chris Szagola

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PHILADELPHIA - St. John's had No. 9 Villanova positioned perfectly for the signature upset it was seeking Saturday at Wells Fargo Center. The transition baskets were starting to come, and the Red Storm had wiped out a six-point deficit to forge a tie with 7:59 left to play.

The Wildcats' next seven possessions produced more turnovers (four) than points (three) as St. John's defensive pressure took full effect. But when it was time to take control of the game, the Red Storm missed nine of its final 10 shots and committed two turnovers in the final 14 seconds of what turned into a disappointing 57-54 loss.

Villanova (24-3, 12-2 Big East) didn't so much outplay the Red Storm (18-10, 8-7) as outlast it. "St. John's without a doubt is a tournament team," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "Not because I say so, but because they're good enough."

The Storm's only two losses in the past 11 games have come at Villanova and Creighton. "I think winning nine of 11 games, and the two losses come against [ranked] teams on their home court, both by three points, [looks good] in terms of the eye test the selection committee always talks about," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "But we can't rely on the eye test. We have to accumulate wins, protect our home court at the Garden and do some damage at the conference tournament. Then we've gone a long way to presenting an impressive body of work."

Red Storm freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan played in his hometown for the first time at St. John's, and center Chris Obekpa shook off an ankle injury to play. Jordan (13 points, six rebounds) had some bright moments but also committed five turnovers. D'Angelo Harrison had 15 points but shot only 4-for-15, and JaKarr Sampson added 12 points and 10 rebounds.