It started ugly. It continued ugly.
In between, the Cincinnati Bearcats stifled the St. John's offense, winning 76-54. After learning that junior guard Malik Stith was leaving the Red Storm program for personal reasons, the Red Storm were left with a 6 man rotation and no secondary ballhandler. The Garden was quiet, the game was mostly listless, and the Bearcats dominated for most of the contest.
St. John's falls to 10-14, 4-8 in Big East play; Cincinnati improves to 17-7, 7-4 Big East.
The length, reaching hands, and offensive rebounding of Cincinnati bothered the Johnnies all night. D`Angelo Harrison + Maurice Harkless combined for 21 points on 6-21 shooting; Phil Greene added 8 points on 12 shots. Sir`Dominic Pointer led the team with 7 total rebounds.
The Red Storm's offense was poor all night. Amir Garrett and Sir`Dominic Pointer were active early, but the team's main threats struggled to score. Pointer got into foul trouble early in the second half, and that made any hope of a defensive-minded comeback even more difficult. The Johnnies couldn't muster a cursory run against the opponents' second string, and at times lost their man on defense.
The Bearcats weren't sharp in the first half, with 8 turnovers and 9/19 shooting inside the arc. But the Red Storm were far worse. In the first half, the Johnnies scored a woeful .61 points per possession; they finished scoring .80 points per possession - in line with their poor scoring performances against the likes of Syracuse, Georgetown, and South Florida.
The hardest part of being on a losing team - or following a losing team - is staying engaged. Tonight might have been the first indication that all of the noise around the team has them distracted. No Steve Lavin, no Stith (with an abrupt departure), a long and losing season - they all may be taking their toll.
St. John's has to improve their transition defense. Cincinnati's early scores were aided by quick passes off of defensive rebounds and turnovers. St. John's had been better at slowing down that first pass from an opponent, and therefore slowing down their transition offense. Tonight, they struggled with defending that pass, and they struggled to get back in transition.
At least the walk-ons got to play. Sam Sealy, Boris Brakalov, Gerard Rivers, and Jamal White all got on the floor. White even knocked down two threes. Expect to hear calls for the never-used scholarship player to get a few more minutes.
Length bothers St. John's a lot. Tonight, even the offensively skilled players Moe Harkless and D`Angelo Harrison, struggled badly. Moe Harkless struggled to even get shots, tying Sir`Dominic Pointer for third most on the team with 8. He scored a season-low 6 points. Amir Garrett hit a jumper, Phil Greene hit a couple, and God`sgift Achiuwa hit a jumper, but that's not a recipe for this team to win this year. Ball movement and energy is.
The turnovers were all forced. Cincinnati's 11 steals accounted for all of St. John's 11 turnovers. No offensive fouls, no traveling calls.