"Everybody's tough on our team and kept at it everyday. We're young, talented, and never give up. This team's future is bright." -Moe Harkless, postgame
The "Fresh Five" journey has come to an abrupt end.
The St. John's Red Storm fell to the Pittsburgh Panthers, 73-59, in the first round of the Big East Tournament on Tuesday afternoon. Ultimately, the reality of inexperience, a short rotation, and an unfavorable match-up did the Johnnies in against Pitt, who has now beaten St. John's twice in a week.[boxscore]
Moe Harkless scored 25 points and pulled down 9 rebounds in what, at times, seemed like a one-man effort. D`Angelo Harrison, who joined Harkless earlier this week on the Big East All-Rookie team, added 12 points and 10 rebounds. But it was never enough.
For Pittsburgh, Ashton Gibbs led the way with 20 points on 5-14 shooting. Nasir Robinson added 15 points. Tray Woodall dished out 6 assists to pace an offense that had little trouble scoring in the second half.
Pittsburgh outscored St. John's 40-31 in the second half after building a 33-28 halftime lead. Once they gathered momentum in the final minutes of the first half with a 16-2 run, the Panthers never looked back.
More, below the fold.
For a team that only won 5 games in the Big East during the regular season, Jamie Dixon's Pitt Panthers sure looked comfortable in its win over the Johnnies. Once they started to get their offensive looks from closer range late in the first half, Pittsburgh got to the basket at will for the remainder of the game.
With the Red Storm competing with just a six-man rotation, they need to get a balanced scoring attack to win. On Tuesday, Harkless and Harrison accounted for 63% of the team's points. Sir`Dominic Pointer (8 points), Amir Garrett (8 points) and God`sgift Achiuwa (5 points) showed flashes of contribution, but couldn't find the necessary consistency. Phil Greene went scoreless on 0-7 shooting.
Pittsburgh, who allowed St. John's to get open looks in transition in the first half, buckled things down defensively in the second frame. They held the Johnnies to 33% shooting (18% 3PT) for the game.
"It was all about defense," Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs told ESPN's Andy Katz following the game. "We know we needed a win. We came out and played hard."
For the final time this season, the Rumble provides you with some postgame takeaways:
Moe Harkless: The One-Man Show. The freshman forward, who is expected to be announced as the Big East's Rookie of the Year later on Tuesday, scored an impressive 25 points in the losing effort. What stands out from Moe's performance was his efficiency, shooting 10-16 from the field. Unfortunately, he was not aided by much contribution from his teammates offensively.
It is worth noting that Dave Pasch and Doris Burke (ESPN) spent much of the second half talking about Harkless' future as an NBA player. Pasch even said as time was expiring: "This could be the final game Harkless plays at Madison Square Garden as a collegiate." It is believed that Harkless will in fact stay in Queens for another year, but we shall stay tuned.
Harrison struggled mightily. D'Angelo, who scored 12 points Tuesday, was about 5 points below his season average. He shot a painful 4-18 from the field (0-6 3PT), and never looked comfortable. You have to give Harrison credit for continuing to attack, but he just didn't have what the Red Storm needed him to have on this day. He did provide on-court value in other ways, however, as he pulled down 10 rebounds - his career high.
Ashton Gibbs kills St. John's...again. Gibbs' 20 points, which led his team, was an instrumental part of the Panthers' victory. He converted 4 threes, which was double the amount that St. John's hit all afternoon. In the past two seasons, Gibbs has played extremely well against the Johnnies. His 15.4 points per game this year was his lowest average since his freshman campaign three years ago. But Gibbs found his form in his squad's two victories over the Red Storm this week.
St. John's finishes the 2011-12 season 13-19, 6-13 Big East. Pittsburgh will move on to play the Georgetown Hoyas Wednesday afternoon at 2:30pm.