St. John’s Against Number 1

Villanova will enter Madison Square Garden on Saturday night ranked as the number one team in the country.

On January 26, 1985, St. John’s went into Georgetown and defeated the number one Hoyas 66-65.
Since then, the Johnnies have played the top ranked team in the country 10 times and have lost all 10 of those games.

Here’s a recap of those instances where St. John’s couldn’t pull off the upset.

March 9, 1985 vs Georgetown: The third meeting between the teams, this one was for the Big East championship. Two weeks after the Hoyas beat the Redmen at MSG, the Hoyas did it again with a 92-80 victory for the conference title. Patrick Ewing only played 19 minutes but Michael Jackson scored 19 points, Bill Martin scored 18, and David Wingate scored 17. Reggie Williams scored 14 before being ejected for fighting with Ron Rowan, who was also thrown out.
Chris Mullin scored 19 points in the first half but only six in the second. The Redmen would get one more shot at the Hoyas.

March 30, 1985 vs Georgetown: The fourth meeting of the season between the two rivals came in the Final Four. The Hoyas got off to a hot start but St. John’s tied the game at 26. The Redmen were only down 32-28 at halftime and Patrick Ewing didn’t have a single rebound. But the Hoyas dominated the second half on their way to a 77-59 win and a spot in the championship game. David Wingate put the clamps down on Chris Mullin. In his final game at St. John’s, Mullin was held to eight points, ending a streak of 101 games that he scored in double figures.

Georgetown would lose in an upset to Villanova in the title game, the same Villanova team that St. John’s went 3-0 against that season.

December 5, 1991 vs Duke: Nine months after Duke beat St. John’s in the Elite Eight, Duke dominated the Redmen in the Big East-ACC challenge. Duke led by as many as 31 although the final score was 91-81. Malik Sealy scored 37 points but was the only St. John’s player in double figures. Christian Laettner scored 26 points and Grant Hill added 15.

January 30, 1999 vs Connecticut: UConn entered the game 19-0. St. John’s had taken number 2 Duke to overtime the week before. The Red Storm led by five at the intermission and pushed the lead to 12 early in the second half. A back and forth second half saw UConn leave MSG with a 78-74 win. Richard Hamilton scored 22 points for the Huskies. Ron Artest had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. Reggie Jesse scored 17 points. St. John’s would go on to the Elite Eight while Jim Calhoun’s Huskies won the NCAA title.

December 21, 2005 vs Duke: St. John’s went to Cameron Indoor as 24-point underdogs but hung tough with the Blue Devils, with the score tied after 16 minutes. Then Duke went on a 32-11 run on the way to a 70-57 win. J.J. Redick scored 18 points. Aaron Spears scored 14 for the Red Storm.

January 25, 2006 vs Connecticut: St. John’s entered this game coming off wins against Louisville and Pittsburgh, two ranked teams. St. John’s only trailed 31-30 at the half but UConn pulled away for a 66-50 win. Rudy Gay was called for a technical foul after pushing Phil Missere in the first half. In the second half, Aaron Spears threw a punch at UConn’s Jeff Adrien. Both players were ejected. Gay finished with 20 points. Eugene Lawrence led the Red Storm with 17.

January 11, 2009 vs Pittsburgh: On the day the Eagles knocked the Giants from the playoffs, there was another New York-Pennsylvania matchup. Norm Roberts’s Red Storm went on the road to play a Panthers squad that had just been ranked number one. St. John’s had beaten a top-10 Notre Dame team the week before but DeJuan Blair led Pittsburgh with 23 points and 15 rebounds, as the Panthers won 90-67 in a game the Red Storm only trailed by five at the half. D.J. Kennedy, a high school teammate of Blair’s, led St. John’s with 18 points.

March 2, 2010 vs Syracuse: Syracuse won the regular season Big East title with an 85-66 win over St. John’s. Syracuse had been picked sixth in the preseason Big East poll. Arinze Onuaku scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Andy Rautins scored 14 points and dished out seven assists for the Orange. D.J. Kennedy scored 19 points for the Red Storm and Paris Horne added 18.

December 1, 2011 vs Kentucky: A Kentucky team that would lose two games all season on the way to an NCAA title hammered St. John’s for an 81-59 win. Terrence Jones scored 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Anthony Davis had 15 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks. The bright spots for St. John’s were God’s Gift Achiuwa with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Moe Harkless with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

February 13, 2016 vs Villanova: The Red Storm entered the game winless in conference play and the Wildcats would win the national title in less than two months but St. John’s only trailed by one at halftime. Villanova did enough for the 73-63 win. Daniel Ochefu scored a career-high 25 points for Villanova. Amar Alibegovic led St. John’s with 18 points.

St. John’s has lost five straight. A shocking win over Villanova would be some way to turn the season around.

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