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March 13, 2014

Johnnies Fall in BIG EAST Quarters

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Despite the hype and high expectations of St. John's possible BIG EAST Tournament run, the Red Storm (20-12) seemed flat for much of the quarterfinal of the BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Although the squad was able to come dangerously close to a full comeback late in the second half, the effort was not enough as the Friars (21-11) defeated the Johnnies 79-74.

"This was clearly a game of runs," said Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin. "We were playing well, had a seven-point lead. Providence went on a big run... and, then, we went on a run just inside of six minutes and had the ball down one. We couldn't convert and Providence pulled away."

St. John's and Providence were evenly matched in the early goings, as both were increasingly hopeful for a full run through the conference tournament especially after eighth-seeded Seton Hall took down top seed No. 3/3 Villanova earlier in the afternoon.

However, the Johnnies' dreams of a relatively easier route through to the BIG EAST championship matchup were seemingly dashed by the 6:24 mark of the second half when Providence led by as much as 17 points, 63-46, after a 27-13 surge that sparked at the start of the stanza.

Instead of throwing in the towel, the Red Storm responded with a run of their own, cutting the deficit to as low as one point, 69-68, on a pair of free throws by junior guard D'Angelo Harrison with just 1:15 remaining in the game following what appeared to be a promising and impressive 22-6 surge spurred by the team's full court man-to-man pressure defense.

"Stay in the moment," said Providence head coach Ed Cooley of what he said to his team when the Johnnies broke down the deficit. "Basketball is a game of runs. We had a run. They were going to have a run, but we wanted to make sure we had the last run."

Harrison had the opportunity to tie after a block on the defensive end by St. John's sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson (15 points, nine rebounds) with 39 seconds left, but was rejected by Providence's Carson Desrosiers (eight points, 10 rebounds, four blocks).

A series of fouls by the Johnnies -- some accidental others intentional to slow the clock -- hurt them down the stretch, as the Friars went 10-of-10 from the charity stripe in the final 31 seconds.

Providence was led in scoring by the game-high 24 points of Josh Fortune, who went 8-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Teammate LaDontae Henton finished with 16 points and 11 boards, while Kadeem Batts added 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Despite the 12 rebounds of St. John's senior forward Orlando Sanchez, the Friars' powerful presence on the interior in the rebounding department hurt the Johnnies at crucial points during the second half as most were cashed in for second-chance points off high-percentage shots.

"They're a physical team," said Desrosiers about the Storm. "They have a lot of size, a lot of athleticism. I think we did a pretty good job on the boards today and I think that's one of the reasons we won the game."

Providence shot 41.3 percent (26-of-63) from the field, which included 33.3 percent (5-of-15) from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Red Storm stroked 41.2 percent (28-of-68) from the field, 29.4 percent (5-of-17) from downtown.

Harrison recorded a team-high 21 points on 6-of-17 from the field as well as 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

"We weren't playing 'St. John's basketball' that we usually play," said Harrison. "But you saw that in the last six or seven minutes and, if we did that the whole game, it would have been a different kind of game."

Providence led St. John's 36-33 at halftime.

The Red Storm broke the basket-for-basket volleying with the Friars when freshman guard Rysheed Jordan scored 10 consecutive points. His offensive grind gave way to the Johnnies leading by as much as seven points, 29-22, with 5:34 left in first half.

Jordan scored 14 of his 17 points in the primary stanza.

"Just disappointed, " said Harrison about his emotion after the loss. "But we have to get past this game and we have basketball in front of us so we get back to work tomorrow or the next day. Just get ready and figure out where we're going to be and work hard again so we can get this next win."

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