The Red Storm's NCAA Tournament hopes are farther down the tunnel, the late train to Penn Station you almost made but didn't, red lights tailing away.
There are still ways to the NCAAs - two ranked teams and a hot Providence, in addition to the Big East Tournament are opportunities - but will the Johnnies be able to do enough to leapfrog the other bubble teams scrapping hard for a berth?
Along with bubble talk, the second half struggles of the St. John's Red Storm were the talk of the papers this morning.
Rumble in the Garden // St. John's vs. Pitt final: St. John's falls 63-47 after stifling Pitt second half
And with the Red Storm's NCAA Tournament hopes in need of a boost against the 20th (or 22nd) ranked Pittsburgh Panthers, it looked like St. John's had Jamie Dixon's team in position for an upset.
...Pittsburgh won, 63-47. The Panthers improve to 21-7, 9-6 in the Big East; the Red Storm fall to 16-11, 8-7 in the Big East.
"We were kind of 'in the desert' offensively," coach Steve Lavin said. "There were things we could have done more effectively."
"Statistically there isn’t a huge difference in any category other than the 17 points off of our turnovers," he added. The Red Storm had nine turnovers in the second half, and struggled to find open looks, or get into their transition offense against the Pittsburgh defense.
Pitt held St. John's to 31% shooting, and 2/15 beyond the arc in the game. D`Angelo Harrison struggled with six points on 1/12 shooting; JaKarr Sampson led the team with 14 points and six rebounds. Phil Greene IV added 11 on 5/13 shooting.
Rumble in the Garden // Stat recap: analysis from St. John's 63-47 loss to Pittsburgh
Pitt used what appeared to be a soft man to man. "St. John’s does a good job of spreading you out," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "Having some of our big guys come out to guard against someone was a concern." The ‘soft’ man to man was set up to try to eliminate dribble penetration by the Red Storm - which it did.
In the Papers
Red Storm Sports // St. John's Stifled By Tough Second Half In 63-47 Loss To No. 20/22 Pitt
After battling No. 20/22 Pittsburgh for one solid half of basketball at The Garden on Sunday, St. John's posted an uncharacteristically high amount of turnovers in the second stanza (nine) and an uncharacteristically low number of points (20).
That made for a bad combination for the Red Storm as Tray Woodall scored a season-high 25 points, including two 3-pointers in the second half, and Pittsburgh snapped a two-game losing streak with a 63-47 victory over St. John's on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
But instead, the Johnnies basically threw the chance away, committing nine turnovers in the second half of a 63-47 loss to No. 20 Pitt before 9,129 on Sunday at the Garden.
In the final 10 minutes, St. John's looked like a team in quicksand. The harder it tried, the worse things got. The Johnnies would have an empty possession — one that ended in a missed shot or a turnover — and Pittsburgh would use almost all of the shot clock and get a basket.
Wall Street Journal // Red Storm Heads a Bit Off Course Against Pitt
...Pitt leaned on Harrison. Lavin said later that the Panthers defended the Red Storm's ballhandlers aggressively, smothering St. John's ability to set up the kind of screens that are set up for Harrison. The Panthers jammed Harrison and made him dribble the ball. Harrison likes to dribble with his right-hand. Pitt forced him to his left.
"He was playing in a crowd the entire afternoon," Lavin said.
Harrison got frustrated. During a 23-8 Pitt second-half run, Harrison stepped on the end line while pounding to the basket. He shot an air ball. He missed two free throws that could have trimmed Pitt's lead to 3 points. He dribbled the ball out of bounds.
Lavin said his entire team was in the desert on offense, not just Harrison. His struggles represented the kind of game St. John's had, though. Harrison has played recently with a swollen ring finger on his right hand, but he said that was no excuse.
Harrison said, "If we would have converted some of the shots we usually make, it would have been a different ballgame. You credit Pittsburgh and their team. They capitalized on our misses."
With three regular-season games left, including road contests at Providence and Notre Dame before the home finale against Marquette, St. John's likely must win two of three plus a couple of games in the conference tournament to get back in the NCAA picture.
ESPN NY // St. John's hurts its chance to dance
St. John's was effective the few times it was able to get out on the fast break. But the half-court offense was woeful, too often breaking down into one-on-one play. The Red Storm's lack of a low-post scorer was never more glaring.
The 47 points was a season-low.
"We couldn't overcome the number of turnovers and the easy points in transition that allowed Pittsburgh to get," Lavin said. "And then I think their depth was a factor as well, in terms of wearing us down over the course of the game."
The Johnnies showed subtle signs of immaturity. D’Angelo Harrison went 1-for-12 from the field, which happens to shooters, but he let it affect the rest of his game. JaKarr Sampson had a team-high 14 points, but he also had two turnovers and no assists.
St. John’s has six days to prepare for a challenging stretch run that starts at a hot Providence team on Saturday and concludes with a game at No. 25 Notre Dame and home against No. 17 Marquette. Two wins would get the Johnnies back in the NCAA Tournament conversation but with 9,129 fans in the building just looking for a reason to jump on the Red Storm Express, St. John’s got dismantled.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette // Woodall storms to career outing as Panthers win - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For most of the season, Woodall has deferred to teammates and made sure they were getting opportunities to score in an offense that has been well-balanced. But this game was different for a couple of reasons.
Woodall wanted to play well for his family, and he needed to play well for his teammates, many of whom struggled for long stretches of the game. Patterson was the only other Pitt player in double figures with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting. The other eight Panthers who played were 10 for 30 from the field.
"I was comfortable," Woodall said. "I'm a senior. I should be comfortable out here. I saw the momentum shifting a little bit, so I wanted to put it on myself to shift momentum back and be the fearless guard that I am, and take shots."
You hate to say one player is the difference in any game, but today it was. Tray Woodall had a huge day - maybe his best game of the year with 25 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. He was unstoppable today and while Pitt doesn't need him to do that much every game, a slight boost over the 10-12 points he often gives the team would help. Nothing more to say - he went out as a senior and won Pitt this game.
NY Daily News/ Dick Weiss // St. John's looks like longshot for NCAA Tournament as youth exposed in loss to Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden
As bad as St. John’s looked down the stretch against Pitt, the Red Storm still has enough skill in transition to make it fun to watch. If the Johnnies can grow up offensively, develop more patience against zone defenses and get their shot selection under control, the future holds a lot of promise.
The Red Storm could even make a quantum leap into the national rankings next year if freshman forward Jakarr Sampson, who should be the Big East Rookie of the Year, doesn’t declare for the NBA draft, and 6-9 forward Orlando Sanchez becomes eligible.
Sanchez, a junior college transfer from Monroe Community College who signed with St. John’s last April, is yet another victim of NCAA injustice. He played a total of 3:39 with the Dominican National team in 2010 and the NCAA has ruled that was apparently enough to cost him his final year of college eligibility.