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St. John’s men’s basketball keeps it close, but falls to No. 1 Villanova

Villanova's Jalen Brunson, bottom, and St. John's

Villanova's Jalen Brunson, bottom, and St. John's Yankuba Sima wrestle for a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Philadelphia. Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

PHILADELPHIA — Daniel Ochefu had a career-high 25 points, Ryan Arcidiacono scored 13 and No. 1 Villanova beat St. John’s 73-63 Saturday night.

Amar Alibegovic led the Red Storm with a career-best 18 points. St. John’s has lost 16 in a row, the longest streak in Division I.

For a half, Villanova (22-3, 12-1 Big East) hardly looked like the nation’s top team. The Wildcats, who were 27-point favorites, only led 28-27 at halftime.

Whatever coach Jay Wright said to his team during the break, it worked.

Villanova came out firing in the second half, going 9 for 11 while building a double-digit lead. Arcidiacono’s 3-pointer capped a 10-3 run and gave the Wildcats their biggest lead to that point, 51-40.

They led by a comfortable margin the rest of the way.

St. John’s cut it to 57-47 on an alley-oop slam by Kassoum Yakwe off a pass by Felix Balamou. The Red Storm (7-19, 0-13) twice had an opportunity to get closer but committed a turnover and missed a jumper.

After a pair of offensive rebounds at the opposite end, Arcidiacono hit a 3 to increase the lead to 60-47.

Malik Ellison’s 3-pointer got the Red Storm to 66-58 with 2:55 left, but Josh Hart made a pair of free throws and Ochefu powered in for a layup to extend the margin to 70-58.

Durand Johnson and Federico Mussini, who lead the Red Storm in scoring with an average of 11.9 points per game, combined for 12.

Playing their first home game — off campus at the home of the NBA’s 76ers and NHL’s Flyers — since jumping to the top of The Associated Press poll for the first time in school history, the Wildcats took a while to get going.

Villanova was 0 for 11 from 3-point range in the first half before Arcidiacono hit one early in the second. The Wildcats even trailed 9-8 after Ron Mvouika’s 3-pointer 7:30 into the game.

TIP-INS

St. John’s: Shot 4 for 14 on 3-pointers in the first half. ... Has lost nine straight to Villanova. ... Hall of Famer Chris Mullin was 6-5 vs. Villanova as a player. He’s 0-2 against them in his first season as coach.

Villanova: Hart and Arcidiacono, the team’s two leading scorers, each had two points in the first half on free throws. Hart finished with seven on 1-for-6 shooting. ... Villanova is 45-34 at the Wells Fargo Center.

UP NEXT

St. John’s hosts DePaul on Wednesday night.

Villanova visits Temple on Wednesday night.

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