On Wednesday night, Duke (23-3) lost 91-89 at No. 12 Virginia as Williams shot 5-for-21 and scored 14 points, six below his average. As in their other losses - to No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Stanford - the Blue Devils surrendered more than 84 points.
St. John's (13-11), which has lost five of seven, had little chance of getting anywhere near that many points. Williams had 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
"The only thing that matters to a point guard is that his team wins the ball game," said Williams, deflecting talk from himself.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Shane Battier, the reigning two-time national defensive player of the year who had 18 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks, had no problem talking about Williams.
"Jason Williams was terrific," Krzyzewski said. "He didn't have a good game in our last game against Virginia. I thought he responded like a veteran in coming back."
"He'd been struggling a little but he has that ability to take over as he did," Battier said.
Chris Duhon had 15 points and Mike Dunleavy added 14 for the Blue Devils, who shot 56 percent (32-for-57) before a sellout crowd of 19,580 at Madison Square Garden.
Anthony Glover was the bulk of the Red Storm's offense, finishing with 23 points, 19 in the first half. Freshman poinguard Omar Cook had six points on 2-for-16 shooting and had eight assists and eight turnovers for St. John's, which came in averaging 75 points per game. The Red Storm finished 25-for-70 from the field (36 percent).
"We played very well on the defensive end of the court. Battier was magnificent," Krzyzewski said. "He has seven blocks and drew some charges. He was unbelievable."
Battier said defense was the focus after the Virginia game.
"We came out and beat them down, really went after them," the senior forward said.
Cook played down any individual matchup with Williams and credited Duke's team defense.
"We're way much better than that," Cook said. "We could have given them a better game. We could have even won this game. It was just my performance today wasn't as good as it should have been, so I think that's why the game was so far spread away."
The win improved Duke's record at the Garden this season to 3-0. The Blue Devils beat Texas and Temple there in November to win the Preseason NIT.
This game was nothing like the last two meetings between these schools.
Two years ago, Duke won 92-88 in overtime at Madison Square Garden, and St. John's won 83-82 at Cameron Indoor Stadium last season.
Duke took control with a 6-2 run to close the first half for a 45-34 lead and then opened the second half with an 8-0 run that was capped by a 3-pointer by Battier that made it 53-34 with 17:54 to play.
It became a rout when the Blue Devils went on a 12-0 run again capped by a 3 by Battier to take a 72-43 lead with 9:58 remaining.
Duke entered the game second in the nation in scoring at 93.3 points per game and was first in margin of victory at 22.6.
"When you play a game like this against a team as talented and experienced as Duke, you can learn a lot if you're willing to," St. John's coach Mike Jarvis said. "I think we have some guys who are going to learn a lot from today."
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