Providence came to Queens looking for respect.
And they got blown out by an inspired St. John's Red Storm, 91-67, with an efficient performance that this team had not yet displayed. The Red Storm were crisp and aggressive early, and Providence responded by folding, with the exception of a run at the end of the first half.
Make no mistake, there were flaws in the Red Storm performance. But tonight, the second half was a victory cigar, material for the highlight reel, and a confidence booster for the Johnnies.
The Red Storm as a team shot well from inside (65%) and outside (36.8%), taking advantage of 20 Providence turnovers to score 34 points. But the story was the explosive performances from D`Angelo Harrison, who dominated the first half, and Moe Harkless, who dominated the second half.
Harrison had 25 points on 8 of 12 shooting, 2 of 5 from outside the arc, with 7 of 8 shooting from the free throw line and 7 assists in the fast-paced game. The 25 points is a career high; Harrison is flashing the confidence and scoring ability that made him a top scorer in high school and on the AAU circuit.
Harkless scored 32 on 14 of 17 shooting, 2 of 3 outside the arc, 2 of 3 from the free throw line, and added 13 total rebounds and 4 assists. His 32 points is a record for a Big East freshman in his first game, and is a career high.
The pair's ability to create gave the Friars fits; they drove off of the dribble, passed, and attacked the Friar defense into submission. The second half played like extended garbage time, with many dunks, tip-ins, transition shots, and sloppy play.
Phil Greene added 12 points and 2 assists.
St. John's jumped on the Providence Friars early, forcing turnovers with their trapping defense and active hands. The Friars tried some presses of their own, but were less effective. St. John's was prepared and took advantage of reaching defense and gaps.
Providence was less calm under the defensive pressure.
The Friars turned the ball over on 28% of their possessions; St. John's held on to the ball, losing the handle on 12.7% of possessions (9 turnovers). St. John's scored 48 points in the paint. The Friars scored 42 points in the paint, and enjoyed 14 offensive rebounds (41% of their possible total).
St. John's goes to 7-5 on the season, and face the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies on New Year's Eve in Hartford. That game won't be as easy, that defense won't be as permissive; but for one night, the Red Storm fans go home happy, and the players' confidence builds.
Providence falls to 11-3, with a game against the Georgetown Hoyas next. Gerard Coleman scored 20 for the Friars with 8 rebounds; LaDontae henton added 15 and 9 boards. Vincent Council was held to 11 points and 4 assists on 5 of 12 shooting. As a team, the Friars shot 20% from outside the arc on 15 attempts.