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#8 Villanova rallies past St. John’s in Big East quarters

Brandon Slater made two free throws with 2.8 seconds left to complete #8 ’s comeback for a 66-65 victory over St. John’s in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament on Thursday in New York.

Caleb Daniels led the second-seeded Wildcats (24-7) with 19 points, Justin Moore added 15 and Collin Gillespie had 14.

Villanova will face either third-seeded and 20th-ranked UConn or sixth-seeded Seton Hall in the semifinals on Friday.

Julian Champagnie led the seventh-seeded Red Storm (17-15) with 23 points and nine rebounds, and Stef Smith added 10 points. Smith’s halfcourt shot fell short as the buzzer sounded.

Smith hit a 15-foot jumper as St. John’s pulled out to a 13-9 lead with 11:34 remaining in the first half.

Villanova missed 17 of its first 20 shots yet trailed by only six.

Joel Soriano threw down a dunk and added a pair of free throws for a 19-10 Red Storm lead.

Daniels responded with consecutive 3-pointers from the wing to close Villanova within 19-16.

St. John’s then scored nine straight, capped by Posh Alexander’s layup, for a 12-point lead with 5:08 remaining in the half.

Gillespie and Moore each knocked down a 3-pointer and the Wildcats sliced the deficit in half.

The Red Storm led 30-23 at halftime thanks in large part to Champagnie’s 13 points. Villanova shot just 7 of 30 (23.3 percent) from the field before the break.

Montez Mathis hit a jumper, Champagnie followed with a jump shot and a 3-pointer and St. John’s quickly extended to a 37-23 advantage early in the second half.

Alexander drained a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 44-27 lead with 15:35 left.

Villanova then surged forward with an 18-2 run capped by Slater’s three-point play to get within 46-45 with 10:25 left.

Slater made two free throws with 4:04 remaining to give the Wildcats a 61-58 advantage.

Aaron Wheeler then grabbed an offensive rebound and dunked to close the Red Storm within one.

When Smith converted a three-point play with 2:08 to go, St. John’s went ahead 65-64.

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