Storm worthy: St. John's defeats Duke, 93-78

NEW YORK NY - JANUARY 30: Paris Horne #23 of the St. John's Red Storm celebrates the win with teammate Justin Brownlee #32 against the Duke Blue Devils at Madison Square Garden on January 30 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Boxscore

How good does it feel for the Red Storm seniors to finally beat Duke?

How good does it feel for the fans to see a Duke victory after 8 years?

How good does it feel to see a St. John's team score 93 points in a 40-minute game?

Yes, at the end of the day, it's only one win. But on this day, a few new Red Storm fans are "born." Some old fans are happy to wear their colors and talk about the good old days.

And the Red Storm seniors have a reason to pat themselves on the back... because they dropped the Duke Blue Devils in front of a packed and rocking Madison Square Garden AND a captivated national TV audience on CBS, 93-78.

The non-Duke portion of college basketball fandom applauds.

It's a great win for the NCAA Tournament resume, helping the Red Storm recover from those bad losses against The Schools That Shall No Longer Be Named (FU and the Bonnets).

More fast analysis, after the jump.

 

There it was - bad Duke shooting combined with the Red Storm actually hitting jump shots? A recipe for an upset. It was hard to believe until around halftime, when the score was 46-25 St. John's.  The Red Storm came out with much the same game plan in the second half, with the great energy, with the tough inside play - grinding it out for the win, despite a late shooting run by Duke.

Thing is, Duke did some of what they've done to win games in the ACC - get offensive rebounds (14 of 33 available - 42%) and run up the pace (76 possessions by my early estimation).

But their defense did not wake up this morning. All that pace with no stops just means that the Red Storm could run the way they've always wanted to run. The Johnnies shot 49 of their 54 shots inside the arc, hitting 59% overall. Dwight Hardy led the team with 26 points on 9-13 shooting (and only 1 turnover); Justin Brownlee was effective as an outside-in forward. He had 20 points on 7-13 shooting, 8 total rebounds, and 6-8 free throws.

And the dunks! Brownlee made a nice little highlight for himself, Sean Evans (5-5, 10 points) got some good minutes, some good dunks, and the postgame interview. Even Malik Boothe (4 pts, 2-6 FTs, 2 steals) made a real difference with his quickness on the drive, drawing 6 foul shots.

The Duke offense also didn't wake up. Duke had 32 points from Nolan Smith and 20 from Kyle Singler, but everyone else was quiet. The Blue Devils shot 19% from outside the arc, with their flurry of threes at the end of the game; it was a poor performance. Coach K agreed, telling reporters after the game that "as a program today we did not show up to compete."

Justin Burrell showed the Duke players some toughness - maybe a little too much, picking up a technical in the game and 3 fouls in the space of 10 seconds of clock time. But the Blue Devils looked run ragged for much of the game - a credit to the Red Storm's attack.

Who knows what St. John's win over the Duke Blue Devils really means? Does it mean the Blue Devils are terrible? Or that St. John's has found a magic formula? Does it mean the Atlantic Coast Conference is simply terrible? Or does it just mean Duke had a bad day, or ran into a bad matchup?

But for so many Red Storm fans, this win will be a "where were you when..." kind of victory. Let's hope it becomes such a regular occurrence under Steve Lavin's coaching that we struggle to remember where we were when this one happened.

Right now, it's just a great win. The players have the tough local game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Wednesday, and UCLA on Saturday. The Duke game ends the stretch of 9 ranked opponents in January; the Red Storm's February is easier, but no cakewalk. The team has a chance to get above .500 in the Big East and make a great case for NCAA Tournament consideration.

It's a marathon, not a sprint. Let's keep it up.

Keys to the Game

Pregame notes/ keys to the game

An Ugly Banger. It was scrappy, tough, physical, and the Red Storm's athleticism led to the blowout win. A+

Work the Inside. The Red Storm took 5 of their 55 shots outside the arc, hitting 58% from 2-point land; they worked the inside like a cyber criminal. A+

Fight on the Glass. The Red Storm did a good job on the glass, snagging 36.4% of their own offensive boards, though Duke got to 42% of their misses. B

Speed is Key. St. John's didn't fall victim to Duke pressure; they turned the ball over on 16% of their possessions, while Duke coughed up the ball over 21% of the time. A

Clutch Points. Hardy, D.J. Kennedy, and Brownlee were clutch, combining for 20-31 on their shots. A+

News Coverage

Red Storm Sports recap

St. John's Slams Duke, 93-78 - ESPN (Video)

NY Post: St. John's slays No. 3 Duke
They dined together the night before they entered the coliseum known as the Garden, a glorious feast at Smith and Wollensky. But these gladiators were not being fattened for the slaughter. They were one. Their focus sharpened like a steak knife.

Standing across from Duke, with its 19-1 record, No. 3 national ranking, and royal status as reigning national champ, during the national anthem, there was no fear. "Coming into the season we all had this game circled," said senior forward Sean Evans.

NY SB Nation: St. John's 93, Duke 78 Final Score: No. 3 Blue Devils Upset By Red Storm
The Johnnies then outscored Duke 26-13 to take a 21-point lead into the half. For much of the second half, St. John's kept a 20-point advantage until Duke made a 10-2 run to make it 77-62 with about four minutes remaining. Duke used a barrage of late 3-pointers to cut the margin down to 11 points with about a minute to go but couldn't complete the comeback.

Johnny Jungle: The Dukes of Midtown
St. John’s unleashed its transition game once again, and once again it was a monster on the court. The Johnnies outscored Duke 50-30 in the paint while also scoring 28 points off the Blue Devils’ 17 turnovers. A great deal of the transition success was fueled by bench scoring, a category St. John’s picked up a victory in by the count of 22-14.

NY Daily News: St. John's pounds No. 3 Duke 93-78 at Garden to give Steve Lavin first signature win with Red Storm
But in the final five minutes, Duke finally assembled the run everyone expected and had been waiting for. With three-pointers on three straight trips, the last by Nolan Smith with under two minutes left, the Blue Devils (19-2) got within 87-76. But D.J. Kennedy made a pair of free throws with 1:36 and the Storm managed to ride it out without letting Duke cut close than the 11 points.

NY Post: St. John's Evans has day to remember
When Steve Lavin was hired to replace Norm Roberts, he faced the unenviable task of trying to sell 10 seniors on a new personality, a new system and new expectations. Nine of them crossed over seamlessly. Senior Sean Evans, one of the most steeled Johnnies, wouldn't budge. Neither would Lavin. He couldn't.

To yield to one player would undermine his authority with the others.

Evans threatened to transfer.

Lavin gave him his papers.

They settled into ice cold war. "You want all of these seniors to have a positive experience," Lavin said earlier this season. It was not easy for Lavin to sit Evans in two games. It was harder on Evans, who started 71 games going into his senior season, to see his minutes shrink to less than seven per game.

ESPN: St. John's pounds No. 3 Duke 93-78 at Garden to give Steve Lavin first signature win with Red Storm
But in the final five minutes, Duke finally assembled the run everyone expected and had been waiting for. With three-pointers on three straight trips, the last by Nolan Smith with under two minutes left, the Blue Devils (19-2) got within 87-76. But D.J. Kennedy made a pair of free throws with 1:36 and the Storm managed to ride it out without letting Duke cut close than the 11 points.

NY Times: St. John’s Shocks No. 3 Duke
The Red Storm is already camped out on the proverbial bubble at 12-8 over all, hoping that home-court victories over Georgetown, Notre Dame and now Duke will eventually help the selection committee forgive early-season meltdowns against St. Mary’s, St. Bonaventure and Fordham.

Clearly, beating Duke cannot be a freestanding event for St. John’s to pin its resurgence on as much as it must be the beginning of a surge to 19 or 20 victories by the end of the Big East tournament.

CNN/SI: St. John's shows signs of progress under Steve Lavin by knocking off Duke - Stewart Mandel
"I focused on the opportunity," said Lavin. "Because of our travel to Alaska, travel to St. Marys, the number [three] strength of schedule in the country and our eight consecutive Top 25 opponent -- who's better prepared than us to play this game today? This was our time, our moment to have a breakthrough."

For most of the Red Storm's roster, that breakthrough had been a long time coming. Four of their five starters and eight of their top nine scorers are seniors. Before this season, they'd enjoyed just one victory over a ranked team (No. 7 Notre Dame in 2009) during their careers. They've now toppled three this season, but neither their 61-58 win over No. 13 Georgetown on Jan. 3 or 72-54 rout of No. 9 Notre Dame on Jan. 16 carried near the significance as this one, which came before a national CBS audience.

NY Post: Lavin injects new life into Johnnies
"He wanted very badly to be back in coaching, to be around the game as a teacher and have those relationships with the players," Lavin's father, Cap, said earlier this season. "He had some concerns if the right job would be available."

It was. Had Lavin accepted the N.C. State gig, he would never have experienced the euphoria he did yesterday in the Garden -- never have known firsthand just how good it is to make it here.

CBS Sports: Hardy helps Johnnies wreck Duke in the Garden
Duke lost a game. That's not big news.

But what's this? They lost to an unranked opponent?

They lost to an unranked opponent by DOUBLE DIGITS? Now that's a story.

St. John's senior guard Dwight Hardy had a big game on one of basketball's biggest stages. The kid from the Bronx poured in 26 points on 9 of 13 shooting, and the Red Storm as a team made their living inside the arc, taking just five three-pointers and shooting 59.3 percent from the floor overall. The home team defeated Duke for the first time in eight long years, winning in convincing fashion, 93-78.

ESPN/ Dana O'Neil: St. John's: Another step in taking back NYC - College Basketball Nation Blog
The most damning stat for former St. John’s coach Norm Roberts wasn’t in the win-loss column -- it was the dwindling attendance figures and the Red Storm’s steady slide to irrelevance.

In a city that wants nothing more than to have a college basketball team to embrace, St. John’s was little more than an afterthought....

No more. This win was in front of a partisan home crowd, in front of students that happily stormed the court, in front of a beaming Lou Carnesecca, in front of alumni proud to wear their school colors again, and in front of casual fans desperate for a home team worth backing.

Since Lavin was hired, New Yorkers have slowly and tentatively come back to St. John's. The hope of a new coach does that and the fact that this new coach came with some name recognition, media savvy and panache didn't hurt.

Are they all-in after one win? Of course not. New Yorkers are too smart for that.

But to get a signature victory in the city limits, to give people a reason to really believe? That can't be undervalued as Lavin tries to reinvigorate his most powerful sales tool: the city itself.

College Hoops Journal/ Asher Fusco: St. John’s Beat Duke … Wait, What?
I’ll say this for Lavin’s Johnnies: They say all the right things post-game (I’m sure they’ve brushed up on their synonyms) and seem to have great chemistry. They’re also talented and pose matchup problems in the post against bigger, less mobile teams. If Duke had decent back-to-the-basket scorers, I’d be writing about matchup problems the other way, but I digress.

NBC Sports/ Beyond the Arc: No easy answers from Duke’s loss | Beyond the Arc
Had the Blue Devils suffered their 93-78 loss to St. John’s on Saturday – when four Top 10 teams lost along with seven others in the Top 25 – it would’ve just been part of yesterday’s carnage. Instead, Duke’s the biggest college hoops news of the day – and sure to weigh heavily on voters’ mind when they submit their polls tonight. (That much poll carnage probably means teams should just stay where they are, though.)

Yahoo! Sports/ The Dagger: How worried should Duke be after a blowout loss to St. John's?
The lingering question following Duke's stunning 93-78 loss to St. John's on Sunday afternoon is what the outcome says about the Blue Devils' chances of winning a second straight championship this March.

Will we view one day view this game as an aberration the way we now look at Duke's loss at Georgetown this time last year? Or is this a sign the Blue Devils aren't the title contenders we've pegged them to be up to this point?

Charlotte Observer: St. John's outruns, outguns Duke at Madison Square Garden
St. John's spread out Duke's defense and burned the Blue Devils with drives and backdoor cuts. Krzyzewski tried man-to-man, zone, full-court pressure and a variety of lineup combinations big and small.

He even removed senior team leaders Singler and Nolan Smith at the same time for about 90 seconds early in the game.

Almost nothing worked. Krzyzewski said X's and O's had little impact on the result of the game because Duke just didn't play hard enough. Smith scored 32 points, one short of a career high, and Singler added 20, but it wasn't nearly enough.

NBC NY: It Seems St. John's Still Has Some Fight Left
That's why we're exercising some caution about what Saturday's win does to their chances of making the big dance. Obviously, it gives them a major chip to offset losses to Fordham and St. Bonaventure should they be on the bubble, but it doesn't really make you feel like they are going to close out the Big East schedule with a record that gets them too far from that bubble when push comes to shove.

The Sporting News: St. John's rips Duke to add to crazy weekend of upsets
After a crazy Saturday of college basketball—11 ranked teams lost and a few of the elites barely survived upset bids—maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that St. John’s was able to knock off the third-ranked Duke Blue Devils this afternoon.

Daly Dose: A Long Time Coming
When Lavin took the job, you didn't have to be a college basketball expert to tell that the charismatic coach hit all the right notes in his first impression. Right away, you could sense that Lavin had a vision to see this program succeed once more; and more importantly, St. John's had a coach that wanted to be there to make it happen after weeks of name upon name deciding against going to Queens to resurrect New York City's college hoops team. Almost a full year later, the aura that some programs would look upon as a potential distraction; one that was embraced by the St. John's community, has only grown exponentially to the point where the Red Storm are on the verge of doing something that has not been done in nine years: Make the NCAA Tournament.

The Epoch Times: St. John’s Demolishes No. 3 Duke
Offensively, senior guard Dwight Hardy led St. John’s with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting. “The main aspect of the game was to come out and set the tempo on both ends of the floor,” Hardy said. “We were clicking early on offense and any time we’re clicking like that on offense, we just get extra energy and play defense as hard as we can.”

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