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January 17, 2014

St. John's Breakdown: Hits 0-5 in BIG EAST





It's safe to say that no one saw this coming.

This meaning St. John's sinking to the bottom of BIG EAST record standings with a 0-5 conference record. Zero and five.

The reason that the statistic was unpredictable, or even unimaginable, was because the Red Storm (9-8) came into the preseason with high hopes from many -- from fans to basketball analysts.

The Johnnies even secured the most individual accolades of any BIG EAST squad and were expected to finish fifth as a unit, one spot behind Villanova.

The same Villanova that is currently ranked No. 6/6 in the nation. The same Villanova that sits atop the conference. The same Villanova that St. John's struggled to close out against last Saturday.

Some say preseason thoughts mean nothing; that the season, itself, determines what's what. And, usually, that opinion is made to encourage the underdog.

However, once league play began, and with each passing game, St. John's has fell below its middle-of-the-pack expectations as a team, and the high expectations of its individual talent.

Emotions range depending on who you talk to among the observers: disappointment, anger and confusion are just three.

Yet, despite the roller coaster of emotions, one positive remains: people still believe in the individual talent of this team. In fact, some still say that the Red Storm are the most individually talented team in the nation.

Maybe that is why 4,709 spectators filled Carnesecca Arena on Thursday on St. John's main campus in Queens, N.Y. The same campus that is still on break for winter recess. The Red Storm faithful were searching for the losing streak to snap, for the nightmare to finally be over.

Instead, the Johnnies delivered another heart-wrenching loss to the fan base that left the crowd silenced. Silenced by the deafening sound of an end-game buzzer with St. John's on the losing end of another one-possession loss.

This time, it was a double-overtime 84-83 defeat to Providence.

In the eyes of many, the Friars (12-5, 2-2) were a team St. John's was supposed to beat. Bottom line. No excuses.

Still, a sluggish start doomed the Red Storm, forcing the squad to play catch up for most of regulation and battle back-and forth with Providence in the two overtimes.

After a fastbreak lay-up by junior guard D'Angelo Harrison off a steal and assist by teammate junior swingman Sir'Dominic Pointer (11 points and seven rebounds), St. John's led by as much as four points, 83-79, as late as 1:35 left in the second overtime period.

Providence's sophomore forward Tyler Harris (18 points) drained 3-of-4 free throws in the Friars next two possessions, bringing his team within one point, 83-82, with 25 seconds left in post-regulation.

St. John's got its largest blow when Providence Bryce Cotton tied up sophomore swingman Max Hooper earning a jumpball call from officials with possession going to the Friars.

Cotton capitalized on the opportunity attacking the middle and netting a toughness basket. The 6-foot-1 senior guard, who led his team with a game-high 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, drew a foul in the process but missed it. Still, the play gave Providence a one-point advantage, 84-83, with 9.8 seconds remaining.

St. John's had one last chance to escape the Friars but, after a strong rebound by Red Storm senior forward God'sgift Achiuwa (11 points and eight rebounds), junior guard Phil Greene IV missed a fastbreak lay-up.

St. John's was led by sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson, who had 16 points on 7-of-14 from the field and eight rebounds. Sampson, who was hampered by a leg cramp as per head coach Steve Lavin, netted nine of those points in the first half.

Greene IV aided in keeping his squad within contender status throughout the matchup, recording 15 points on 7-of-16 from the field.

Harrison, who was unproductive for much of regulation, stepped up big in crunch time and, with a 3-pointer, gave the Johnnies their first advantage of the game since the 19:44 mark of the first half when the score was 2-0. That second lead of the matchup came at the 3:07 mark of the second half when the score was 65-62.

A lay-up by St. John's senior forward Orlando Sanchez (12 points, four rebounds and four assists) and a bucket and free throws by Providence's LaDontae Henton (17 points and nine boards) and Harris, respectively, knotted the game at 67 at the end of regulation.

Harrison finished with 14 points, which included 12 points during the last five minutes of regulation and overtime periods.

Providence's 6-foot-9, 245-pound senior big man Kadeem Batts, who was instrumental in the Friars' success throughout regulation and fouled out early in the matchup's first overtime, went to the bench with 17 points and nine rebounds.

The Johnnies shot 42.5 percent (31-of-73) for the game, banking 1-of-10 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, the Friars netted 36.9 percent (24-of-65) from the field, including 6-of-25 from beyond the arc.

The Red Storm trailed the Friars by seven, 36-29, at halftime.

Providence led by as much as 13 points, 36-23, at the 2:20 mark of the first half.

The Friars opened the first six minutes of the game with much firepower, leading 18-6 by the 13:54 mark of the stanza.


St. John's will play Dartmouth in the Red Storm's final non-conference game of the season on Saturday, Jan. 18. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m.





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