Game 23: Villanova 81, St. John's 71

Villanova's Isaiah Armwood reacts after dunking on St. John's Paris Horne during the second half. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK - Villanova trailed at halftime, but dominated the second half in a 81-71 win over St. John's at Madison Square Garden. Scottie Reynolds led the Wildcats with 19 points, while Bronx native Corey Stokes tallied 18 and Maalik Wayns added 16.

(It was announced over the public address at the end of the game that Wayns and Reynolds had 17 each, which is why I had written that earlier. I also heard later that there was an error in the initial box score, so that might have been part of it.

I would say that at least half the crowd of 14,440 was Villanova fans, if not more. The visitors' contingent was certainly louder.

And by the way, it's Jay Wright's wife's birthday today. Not a bad way to spend a weekend, is it.

Greetings from the self-proclaimed world's most famous arena.


Which is the better basketball arena?

I have said on here before that Madison Square Garden does not hold the same allure for me that it does for many other basketball fans out there. I certainly suspect Corey Fisher holds it in much higher regard.

The Palestra has a lot to do with that. Both it and MSG have tons of history, but I'd rather watch a game on Philadelphia's 33rd Street any day. The Palestra is more intimate and more humble, and there's nothing like an afternoon tipoff when the sunlight comes streaming through.

Yet what really separates the Palestra from Madison Square Garden is that it's purely a college basketball arena. Sure, MSG has a rich and colorful college basketball history. But it's a pro arena at heart, and always will be.

So too is New York a pro basketball town at its heart. It would help if St. John's was any good, of course. But even if they were, there's no way the Red Storm would take space from the Knicks in the tabloids.

In Philadelphia, winter Saturdays mean college basketball. And not just one game; more often than not, you can see two or even three matchups from noon to night.

Which brings us to this day, and an interesting coincidence. The two biggest college teams in Philadelphia have come to visit the two biggest college basketball teams in New York: Villanova at St. John's and Temple at Fordham.

Unfortunately, both games are tipping off within an hour of each other. So we'll rely on others to get updates from Rose Hill Gymnasium.

But the day won't be over when the Owls leave the Bronx. Tonight at 7 p.m., Cornell faces Columbia in Morningside Heights - just a short subway ride from here in Midtown.

You all know about the Big Red's exploits thus far. Tonight is their first conference road game of the season, and the Lions are the league's best three-point shooting team.

Granted, Columbia has about the same chance of upsetitng Cornell at St. John's does of Villanova. But they do have to play the games.

So off we go from the Garden, with the first of three big games in this one big city. It's just like being at home.