Was it a pair of gritty teams that wanted desperately to win?
Or two teams too woefully inept to close out a game?
From the seats in the Allstate Arena, it felt like ineptitude. St. John's fell behind by as much as 20 points in the first half (32-12), and struggled to find shots without Dwight Hardy. They also struggled to find the handle, consistency, and Mike Stovall, who suddenly became a sharpshooter.
Some may say the team played hard to pull out the win. I saw some confusion on offense, some lack of recognition on defense. The team was at times slow to get back after missing a shot. The energy was low, the defense was too gentle... it wasn't a great performance. The 13 missed free throws didn't help, either. The team had a hard time finding their legs to play tough defense in the overtimes - Jeremiah Kelly had an easy time getting through to the hoop for layups that sent the game into double overtime and triple overtime.
On the plus side, Malik Boothe made some plays, logging assists and playing 51 of 55 available minutes. D.J. Kennedy carried the team, putting up 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists - on 7 of 9 three-pointers and 9 of 12 free throws. Justin Burrell was battling on the glass and against Koshwal; he had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Both teams shot well from the perimeter, and poorly inside the arc. And for some reason, Sean Evans played 8 minutes total; I can verify that he was on the bench for the whole game.
St. John's hits the 90-point plateau for the first time all year, kudos to them. A question - do the teams get a commemorative website called Three Overtimes, like U Conn and Syracuse got last year for their Big East tournament Six Overtimes?
At the game, I took some photos in from my seat behind the St. John's bench, hanging out with the other St. John's fans... we even got a "de-fense" chant going, and a "let's go Johnnies." Click on the photos for larger versions:
Here, Norm watching the action on the left, a rare Kene Obi in-game sighting, some more game action.
An Omari Lawrence sighting, and DJ Kennedy finally puts the game to bed.
Players credited the comeback to a high-volume halftime tongue-lashing from Johnnies coach Norm Roberts, who called the victory "by far the most exciting game I've ever been a part of in my life coaching."...
With the end of the season feeling like a referendum on whether the St. John's administration should bring back Roberts - now 80-99 at the school - for a seventh season, the win might help. The Storm hasn't improved as expected but by equaling the six conference wins from a year ago it has avoided anything that could appear like regression.
"You like that fact, but I'd like to have a much better record," Roberts said.
The Johnnies played a first half unlike one they'd played all season. They made DePaul (8-22, 1-17), which is 1-35 in conference play the past two years, look like a world-beater and they bickered while doing it.
NY Daily News - Dick Weiss: Johnnies cap season with triple OT victory
Chicago Tribune: DePaul falls 90-82 in 3 overtimes
Daily Herald: Extending the misery: DePaul falls in 3 OTs
St. John's forced overtime when Kennedy fed Justin Burrell for an uncontested dunk with two seconds left.
St. John's (16-14, 6-12) took its first lead with 2:03 left in the first overtime, but DePaul rallied to forge another session as Jeremiah Kelly (13 points, 9 assists) drove unimpeded with a tying layup with two-tenths of a second to play.
Apparently one of St. John's players thought its lead was 3 and let Kelly go to the hoop.
Kelly missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to close out the second overtime and St. John's dominated the third extra period.
Yet Another Basketball Blog: Three Overtimes Again?!
What the game lacked in dramatic game-deciding three pointers, it made up for in good strategy. First, at the end of regulation, St. John’s could have gone for the three and the win, but they went for the tie and tried to extend the game. If you think you have the better team, (and after coming back from down 20, St. John’s did), extending the game is the right call. But the best part wasn’t the decision to go inside, it was DJ Kennedy’s ability to avoid the charge call, draw the defender, and pass the ball to Justin Burrell for a wide-open dunk with 2 seconds left.
Not to be out-done, DePaul trailed by 2 at the end of the first overtime and Jeremiah Kelly broke the defenders ankles, en-route to a game tying lay-up. The second overtime ended with a missed jumper by DePaul, and the war of attrition was on.
Keys to the Game
I honestly think this effort would have lost the game for the Red Storm against any other team.
Take Them Seriously. The effort early in the game was lackluster. Less because the team didn't take DePaul seriously, but because they seemed distracted in the way they have been in many recent games - the losing, perhaps, has gotten to the team and their effort? C.
Defend. DePaul shot for an effective field goal percentage of 48.1%, higher than their 45.1% average. The point guards, Kelly and Mike Bizoukas, looked competent in snaking into the lane. Mike Stovall, a 32% three-point shooter in conference, went 5 of 6 from beyond the arc and scored 19 points. That's not great defense. D-.
Generate Easy Shots. They had a hard time generating shots; and didn't defend well enough to take advantage of their athleticism. D.
Win the Battle on the Glass. The team did win the battle on the glass - barely - but Krys Faber and Mac Koshwal had room to operate down low. They cleared 14 defensive rebounds and seemed to get decent position in the post. C.
Recapture the Magic. Once the team got going, they were decent at scoring the basketball with their weapons, even if it took them an extra hour to put away the Blue Demons. The team struggled to find offensive consistency without Hardy, and while there were solid moments, this was not a magical performance. C-.