The St. John's Red Storm (9-11, 3-6) have already landed in Durham, NC and are slated to take on the Duke Blue Devils (17-3, 5-1) on Saturday. The noon tip will be the newest installment of a series that has become an annual tradition.
Since 1999, the two storied programs have met thirteen times. The Blue Devils walked away with victories on ten of those occasions, but it is St. John's that currently holds the belt. The series (which has never been able to be characterized as a rivalry) has spewed both thrillers and duds, from both perspectives.
For St. John's to shock the Cameron Crazies on Saturday, they'll need someone to step up with heroics. We remember the performances of Bootsy Thornton, Marcus Hatten, and (gulp) Sean Evans in the Red Storm's three wins over Duke over that 13-year stretch. Will one of the young Johnnies exit Cameron and step into lore?
As we continue our full coverage of this game, we look back at some of the good and not-so-good memories from the St-Johns-Duke series.
See also: Game 21: St. John's at Duke Blue Devils (game preview) & 5 questions (+1) on Duke basketball with Crazie Talk (pregame Q & A)
More, below the fold.
January 24, 1999 - Duke 92, St. John's 88 (OT)
Back when St. John's was selling out games at the Garden, they met Duke in a game that became a college basketball classic. The game featured four eventual NBA stars - Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Corey Maggette, and Ron Artest (back when he was Ron Artest). St. John's (#8 in nation) and Duke (#2) gave the Garden crowd a game they'd never forget. Bootsy Thornton's 40 points led the Red Storm in a valiant effort, but was ultimately not enough to equalize Duke's six players that reached double figures. In a game that has since been characterized as "one of the best ever played at Madison Square Garden," St. John's fell to Duke by four in overtime.
February 26, 2000 - St. John's 83, Duke 82
Everyone dreams for a shot at taking down the vaunted Blue Devils on their home court. In the 2000 season, the Red Storm made that dream a reality. It was the perfect encore to the previous year's meeting that had gone down to the wire. Once again, it was Bootsy Thornton who led the Johnnies with a 22-point night over a Duke team that eventually went on to lose in the Sweet 16. St. John's had been 11.5-point underdogs entering the game against stars like Jason Williams, Shane Battier, and Carlos Boozer. The epic game has stood for twelve years as the last time Duke lost to a non-conference opponent at Cameron.
March 2, 2003 - St. John's 72, Duke 71
(St.John's Red Storm vs Duke Blue Devils 2003 (via 513official4))
It took a 12-0 run in the final minutes, but St. John's squeaked out a shocking victory over Duke late in the 2002-03 season. That year's Red Storm was an average team at best (won NIT). On that Sunday afternoon, they were too much for 6th-ranked Duke. It was a last second mid-court steal and fast-break drive by Marcus Hatten that allowed the upset to be completed.
With no time on the clock, Hatten sunk the first free throw and St. John's walked off with a thrilling win. The loss snapped Duke's 26-game non-conference win streak and, as Billy Packer mentions at the end of the preceding video, may have kept them away from a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
February 19, 2009 - Duke 76, St. John's 69
Duke handled St. John's, 76-69, in the one-game Aeropostale Classic in a nationally televised game. The score may indicate that the game was close, but it was never really in doubt. As an observer from section 421, I can vouch for this. It was a tough one to swallow because the Johnnies' ineptitude against Duke had seemed to be becoming an annual occurrence. Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, Elliot Williams, and Gerald Henderson each reached double figures as Duke led St. John's by double figures for most of the night. D.J. Kennedy, then a sophomore, added 20 points for St. John's.
December 5, 2009 - Duke 80, St. John's 71
If the game wasn't over when St. John's came out of the locker room in the all-lucky black uniforms, it certainly felt over when Justin Burrell went down with an ankle injury in the opening minute after attempting a jump shot. The Johnnies' only formidable interior presence left the game after landing on a Blue Devil foot, which left the team without an answer for 7'0'' Brian Zoubek. St. John's fell far behind early; a second half push only brought them within shouting distance. Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer carved up the Red Storm defense and Kyle Singer closed the deal with 10 second half points. D.J. Kennedy added 18 and Sean Evans provided 17 points for Norm Roberts' team in the program's seventh consecutive loss to Duke.
January 30, 2011 - St. John's 93, Duke 78
The 93-78 drubbing St. John's gave Duke in late January last season proved to be the turning point of a season that saw the Johnnies' first trip to the NCAA Tournament in nine years. An early spurt by the Red Storm, driven by solid offensive performances from Dwight Hardy, Justin Brownlee, Paris Horne, D.J. Kennedy, and Sean Evans, took the fire out of the Blue Devils. They were never able to recover. Krzyzewski's team shot an abysmal 5-26 from behind the arc in a game that, at one point, they found themselves down by 25. The win defined the Red Storm's best season in nearly a decade and provided first-year head coach Steve Lavin with his first marquee win at the helm. The victory snapped St. John's seven-game losing streak to Duke.