Something funny happened along the way to the St. John's 60-47 loss to the Louisville Cardinals.
The Red Storm really made them work for it. And I mean WORK - it was a meat grinder out there, tough, violent, brutal. It's not the kind of basketball you want to see on your ESPN Classic - really, it looked more like a really bad Big Ten game - but kudos to the Red Storm on playing three-quarters of the game really tough.
They even knocked out freshman Samardo Samuels's tooth - an inadvertent elbow from G/F DJ Kennedy caught Samuels' jaw. But in the end, the old bugaboos came back - turnovers and poor shooting - in a game that had my wife repeatedly telling me, "they could actually win this, right?"
A JUCO recruit took in the game, Justin Brownlee. He's 6'7", like pretty much everyone else on the roster, and he graduates in 2011, like pretty much everyone else on the roster (Burrell, Coker, Evans, Thomas, Kennedy, Horne, Wait, Boothe, incoming recruit Hardy). Adding a tenth person - unless someone's transferring - to an exodus in 2011 is never a good idea.
"Right now he is our coach for the long term," Monasch said during halftime of the Red Storm's 60-47 loss to No. 5 Louisville at the Garden dropped them to 12-11 (3-8 Big East). "He's put together a good team, and there's a lot of games left."....
When asked if something could happen before the end of the season that would change his mind, Monasch said, "I'm not going to comment on that."
"There's a lot of games left," Monasch said. "At the end of the year you look back at the total picture [and evaluate if] things are going in a positive direction. We have more good players in the program now than we've had since he's been here. We're a young team and there are a lot of games left. You have to look at the complete season."
The complete season's been pretty mediocre. Then again, compared to last year, perhaps this is a positive direction.
I think Jerry Smith looks like a guy my dad used to be friends with. The kind of guy who, 20 years from now, comes over to play dominoes. One beer later, you're knuckle-deep in some story about how Jerry was so awesome when he played for Louisville. He won't play his domino, he's going on and on about how he was the centerpiece of the team, and the whole time, you know he's a role player. I think it's the receding hairline that makes me think of this guy.
And I can't hate on Smith's play, he pulled them out when no perimeter player could make shots... and Edgar Sosa was being Edgar Sosa, the guy you only notice when he f**ks up. I hear that sometimes he looks like a competent baller, but I never see it.
Check out the blog Card Chronicle for more of the Louisville side of this ugly game. Also since I borrowed the idea of the little icons for team-by-team points from that blog.
Five Boro Sports: SJU falls short of monumental upset of No. 5 Louisville
The last few days, assistant coach Fred Quartlebaum flooded the cell phones of the St. John’s men’s basketball players with text messages. They contained information about different upsets this year in college basketball and Saturday night Quartlebaum sent one out about South Florida’s upending of No. 8 Marquette.
The final text came this morning, a few hours before St. John’s was to face No. 5 Louisville: "Why not us?"
It almost was. The Red Storm led with 9:51 left against the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, but could not hold on for what would have been a monumental upset.
So when Kennedy drove the length of the floor for a layup to give the Red Storm a 36-34 lead with 9:50 to play, the opportunity was there.
But St. John's (12-11, 3-8 Big East) let it slip. Louisville (18-4, 9-1) scored the next nine points, six by junior guard Jerry Smith, and St. John's turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation and a turnover in the backcourt forced by Louisville's press.
"We just got away from what we'd been doing - being scrappy, tough, going after loose balls with two hands," Red Storm point guard Malik Boothe said. "We were going after them with one hand, and they started going after them with two hands."
NY Daily News: St. John's folds against Louisville
The last time St. John's played host to Louisville at the Garden, Justin Burrell walked out of the building with a smile on his face, certain that he wanted to join the Red Storm following its upset over the nationally ranked Cardinals in 2006.
"I was being recruited, and that's when I realized I wanted to come here," said Burrell, hooked by the idea of beating ranked opponents under the bright lights of Broadway.
NY Post: Storm's upset bid falls short
With Justin Brownlee, a highly regarded 6-foot-7, 230-pound junior college standout who is considering Kansas, Oklahoma State and St. John's seated in the front row of the Garden yesterday, an aggressive Red Storm team surged to a two-point lead over No. 5 Louisville with 9:57 remaining.
"We felt like we had a chance to make a statement today," St. John's forward Sean Evans said.
The Courier-Journal: On the bench, then Smith rules the court; He scores 21 points as Cardinals rally
"He basically won the game with his offensive play down the stretch," U of L coach Rick Pitino said. "I've been trying to tell him since his freshman year that I always judge the best players by who plays in the last five minutes of the game when it's close."
Pitino pointed out that more than just Smith's scoring ignited the Cards. He made several key defensive plays that only appear in Pitino's team stats. Smith had a deflection that stopped a potential Red Storm fast break. He outhustled St. John's forward Justin Burrell for a loose ball, leading to a Burrell foul.
On the heels of those plays, Smith hit two three-pointers in a 9-0 spurt that allowed U of L to take the lead for good, 43-36.
"I just wanted to come with a little intensity; it was kind of down," Smith said. "Seemed like a lot of people weren't pumped up on our team. I just tried to make plays to lift the team."
The Courier-Journal: Cards squeak out of NYC with 60-47 win
The Cardinals were 8-for-23 at the break (34.8 percent) and missed all eight of their 3-point attempts. They were outrebounded 28-20 and Samuels was heading for a dentist appointment, while Louisville trailed 22-19.
"We were a little flat and we did have those things going against us," Pitino said. "I was concerned because we weren't making shots and sometimes when you don't make shots you lose your confidence. But we went backdoor. That's what's we kept preaching, there's easy baskets to be had."...
"They've got a very good team and they made some big plays in the second half," St. John's coach Norm Robert[s] said. "We missed some shots but I thought we played extremely hard. We really competed hard."