QUEENS, N.Y. - After battling No. 20/22 Pittsburgh for one solid half of basketball at The Garden on Sunday, St. John's posted an uncharacteristically high amount of turnovers in the second stanza (nine) and an uncharacteristically low number of points (20).
That made for a bad combination for the Red Storm as Tray Woodall scored a season-high 25 points, including two 3-pointers in the second half, and Pittsburgh snapped a two-game losing streak with a 63-47 victory over St. John's on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
"In the second half we were in the desert offensively and that's a credit to Pittsburgh in terms of their defense. But also, there were things that we could've done more effectively in terms of being more patient and having better shot selection," said St. John's head coach Steve Lavin. "I thought we took care of the ball well in the first half and that allowed us to stay in the game and be competitive. The combinations of the nine turnovers and the 17 points off of those turnovers led to a 16-point game. We got in the bonus early in the second half, but we weren't able to get ourselves to the foul line. I thought that was critical as well."
Woodall, who came in averaging 10.9 points per game, finished 8-of-14 from the field, and D'Angelo Harrison of the Red Storm, the BIG EAST's No. 3 scorer with an 18.3 average, had a tough shooting day and finished with six points on 1-of-12 field goals. It didn't help that St. John's, which came into the game averaging 11.4 turnovers per game, had enough second-half miscues to lead to 13 Panther points.
Lamar Patterson had 11 points for the Panthers (21-7, 9-6 BIG EAST), who have won five of their past seven road games.
JaKarr Sampson had 14 points and six boards and Phil Greene IV added 11 for the Red Storm (16-11, 8-7 BIG EAST), which has three regular season games and the BIG EAST Championship Tournament to add to its potential NCAA Tournament resume.
The teams came in tied for seventh in the 15-team league. The top eight finishers get a bye to the second round, a day of rest in a tournament that can stretch to five days for a team that doesn't get that opening bye.
Sir'Dominic Pointer made two free throws two and a half minutes into the second half to give the Red Storm a 33-32 lead, just their second of the game.
Woodall, hit a 3-pointer with 17:08 to play to give the Panthers the lead for good. He scored the first eight points of a 10-2 run that gave Pitt a 42-35 lead with 15:13 left.
The Red Storm, despite Harrison's shooting woes, were still in it when Chris Obekpa (four points, four rebounds, four blocks, two steals) made two free throws to make it 42-39 with 12:08 to play.
The Panthers went on a 13-2 run from there and the basket that silenced the crowd at The Garden was a long 3 by Woodall that made it 53-41 with 6:29 to go.
St. John's sophomore guard Jamal Branch returned after missing four games with a sprained MCL in his left knee. He entered the game with eight minutes left in the first half, playing for two minutes. He came into the game again with nine minutes to play and saw just one minute in the second half. Branch, who missed two shots and had one turnover, came in averaging 8.3 points and 2.5 assists.
March begins on the road for the Red Storm with a visit to Providence on Saturday, March 2 (8 p.m.)