There's little that makes a St. John's fan happier than watching the Huskies go down. St. John's 73... Connecticut Huskies 51.
I can't believe that happened either. A confident, aggressive, hard-dunking, ball-stealing, sharp-shooting St. John's team eviscerated the U Conn Huskies.
And I will say that as a fan, that was a sweet moment, seeing the Connecticut Huskies taken out back for a Puritan-era whaling. St. John's fans of more recent vintage have had the Huskies as dirty rivals, and rivals that since 2002 have slapped around the Red Storm like it was an early-70s movie and the Red Storm were a hysterical supporting actor. More analysis, news links, and stats, below the fold.
The Red Storm uncharacteristically jumped out to a nice cushion early… and took advantage of atrocious Husky shooting (31% in the first half) and 8 turnovers to build a 53-22 cushion… and then repeated the feat in the second half, holding the desperate Huskies to 29 and scoring 38. It was a strange game for longtime St. John’s fans – the team was aggressive, active, and looked to dunk on the Huskies.
The team was aggressive, active, and looked to dunk on the Huskies. Malik Boothe was aggressive on defense and a baller of a point guard on offense, with 8 points on 4 of 4 shooting, 9 assists, 4 steals, and 2 turnovers.
Omari Lawrence got 14 minutes of burn and should have had a few free throw attempts along with his 4 points. And D.J. Kennedy was saddled with foul trouble, only playing 25 minutes. Sean Evans looked good with his dribble and made hustle plays to the tune of 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Justin Brownlee scored 13 (on 13 shots) and was credited with 4 blocks.
And don't get me wrong, I still think a coaching change needs to be made. I still think the team has inconsistent effort, and that in a Big East that is more down than anyone thinks (it shows on defense this year - few teams really stop anyone), the Red Storm's lack of effort or planning at times has left them at 7-12 and playing on the first day of thr tournament. If the effort was like this every time, the Red Storm would be in the top 8.
But for the day, they could be heroes. Just for one day.
"It's all here for us," Justin Burrell said. "Win and make something of the season. Win and keep our coach. This tournament is filled with possibilities. Think about if we can pull it all together right here. It'll be a Miracle on 34th Street."...
Burrell said the players have discussed Roberts' precarious situation and they left practice Monday with the feeling that "we have to do this for him (because) we want him here beyond this season and we know the only way for that to happen is for us to win these games."
And the Johnnies played like it, getting to almost every loose ball and shooting 54% from 3-point range and 50% for the game. As Boothe said, "we played extra hard tonight. There was second- and third- and fourth-effort plays, and those are what ultimately won the game for us."
How his players feel about him - and how they performed yesterday - made Roberts an especially happy man. "That's the ultimate for any coach, that players want to play for you, that they want to give everything they can," he said. "Every coach wants that. My guys give me that."
The guys have heart. But they don't have consistent effort, and that has to be on the coach, doesn't it?
Next up is a Marquette team that the Red Storm lost to in overtime, 63-61, only because of a circus fadeaway jumper by Jimmy Butler on Feb. 24.
If St. John's can win this game, it will make it that much more difficult for the administration to replace Roberts with someone like Tom Pecora, Paul Hewitt or Kevin Willard.
"I don't know," Roberts said of his coaching future. "I haven't discussed that stuff. That's you guys in the media talk about that. I haven't talked to the administration. They haven't talked to me. Let the chips fall where they may.
"All I can do is do the things that I control. And the players can control what they do as far as their energy and effort, and that's the same for me."
I have no idea why St. John’s is only 6-12 in the Big East. They have three athletic and strong front-court players (Evans, Brownlee, Burrell) that have dominated UConn’s front line. D.J. Kennedy controls the flow and has been that "glue guy" that UConn is missing.
Because they're inconsistent!
NY Times: St. John’s Eliminates a Fading UConn
For all the athleticism that UConn’s lineup brought into Tuesday’s game against St. John’s, it was the unit’s collective apathy that was most striking on the court.
The question is whether Roberts will be there. He has been criticized by the fans who think it is still 1985 and Looie Carnesecca is bringing Mullin, Berry and Jackson down to Kentucky for the Final Four. Looie was even introduced during the game, looking younger all the time. But St. John’s needs to be realistic. The Big East’s top-level football universities have more money to spend on basketball, as reported in The New York Times on Tuesday.
Norm Roberts is also criticized by fans who would like to see a .500 team in conference. It's not a binary decision - "Mullin is walking through that door" and winning 33% of the team's regular season conference games.
And with a win over Marquette today, perhaps Roberts (81-99) will get to lead those players in Year 7. Certainly, they made a statement about their head coach, snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Huskies and giving Roberts his first win over Calhoun.
"We hear about Coach Roberts being on the hot seat, but you have no idea how much he cares about us," junior Justin Burrell of The Bronx told The Post. "He has us out to his house three or four times each summer to swim in his pool. We are the closest team I've ever been on."
Will close be enough? The 17 wins are the most in the Roberts era. There could be an NIT invitation, which would be the first postseason tournament the Red Storm didn't have to buy its way into, as is the case with the College Basketball Invitational.
"That was one of the best games I've seen a St. John's team play in I don't know how long. Both ends of the court. Offense, defense. Tremendous, tremendous intensity," Looie gushed. "You couldn't ask for anything more. I'm telling you, we're only one or two players away. I mean these kids played hard. It's just one or two guys that can get us up in the upper echelons."
But others doubt the Red Storm is as close as Carnesecca and Fraschilla believe. One NBA scout who handles a lot of college duty for his team gave a laundry list of failings for St. John's that led him to note, "it's just not a destination school" that will attract top-tier recruits.
"St John's, they're lost in the 80's."
NY Post/ Mike Vaccaro:
The ambivalence of winning: St. John's fans are officially in sporting-fan Never-Never Land after watching the Johnnies destroy UConn yesterday. Today, the Storm gets Marquette, another winnable game ... that a good portion of the St. John's fan base may well not want them to win. Because a win will give the Johnnies 18, and an administration that was already gun-shy about making the coaching change it desperately needs to make will be awfully hard-pressed to pull that trigger after two Big East Tournament wins.
UConn Falls To St. John's 73-51 In Big East Tournament Opener
"They came out with purpose, physicality and, quite frankly, handed us our butts," coach Jim Calhoun said. "We just got handled by a St. John's team who played very hungry."
Calhoun said he had no doubt UConn would win this game. Asked about his subdued sideline demeanor, sitting back on the bench as his team unraveled, Calhoun said he never felt helpless. But the Huskies (17-15) failed miserably with a familiar absence of energy that brought them to New York in such a precarious position....
Dyson's performance was particularly hurtful. He had four points for the second game in a row after reaching double figures in the first 30. He also had a career-high nine turnovers in 26 minutes.
"I don't think I've ever played this bad in my life," a despondent Dyson said.
Norm Roberts Will Keep His Job For One More Day
Ballin' Is a Habit: St. John's routs UConn, who decided not to make the trip to MSG
(Side note: the fall of Jerome Dyson has been incredible to watch. Dyson played like he was shaving points tonight. He finished just 2-6 from the field for four points and had nine turnovers in 26 minutes. Every time he touched the ball in the second half, it was a turnover. The worst part was that he didn't seem to care. Dyson apathetic attitude and poor play down the stretch of the season may have done more than cost UConn the NCAA tournament; it may have cost him a spot in the NBA Draft.)