What the media is saying about last night's Big East Tournament-ending 66-53 loss to the Villanova Wildcats, where the Johnnies stand, and some hand wringing about the season.
The Red Storm fell, 66-53, to the Villanova Wildcats on Wednesday night in the second round of the Big East Tournament. A spirited first half performance gave the Johnnies a gleam of hope before the Storm reverted to its recognizable offensive suffocation.
Villanova's ten-point lead was cut in half when Lavin chose to call one of his final three timeouts after a Phil Greene forced turnover and made lay-up. The Wildcats scored the next seven points out of the timeout, and the momentum that could have been used to catapult St. John's into a quarterfinal match with Louisville was sucked away.
St. John's Torch // ‘Cats Bounce Johnnies from Tournament : The Torch
"More than any schemes, I think we didn't finish," head coach Steve Lavin said. "We just didn't finish shots we expected to finish."
It took St. John's most of the first half to get comfortable. The team failed to score a point for more than six minutes during the first half. That ended with a JaKarr Sampson field goal at the 9:11 mark. It sparked a rally for the Johnnies as they went on a 9-2 run.
That's when freshman Christian Jones and junior Marco Bourgault scored seven points combined to end the half, giving the Red Storm everything they lacked: a shot behind the arc and involvement from the bench. Before Jones' first basket at the 3:03 mark, every point had come courtesy of a St. John's starter.
"I thought overall our bench performed well for us coming down the stretch this year," Lavin said.
Official Site // St. John's Falls To Villanova, 66-53, In BIG EAST Second Round
Phil Greene IV scored 16 on 7-of-19 shooting for the 10th-seeded Red Storm (16-15). JaKarr Sampson, the conference Rookie of the Year, had 13 points and nine rebounds.
"Villanova is an excellent basketball team capable of making a run in the NCAA Tournament," said head coach Steve Lavin. "We just didn't finish shots that we expect to make, or take care of the basketball. We came back and found a way to tie the game at half, but Villanova's ability to convert some high percentage shots and our inability to convert at the rim was the difference down the stretch."
Villanova has an RPI ranking of 53 but appears to be in good shape for an NCAA tournament berth thanks to three wins over top 5 teams this season, plus a victory over Marquette, which shared the BIG EAST Championship.
St. John's, which was playing on one of its home courts, will hope for a bid from the NIT.
When St. John's lost at Villanova in overtime on Feb. 2, Harrison had 36 points. The Johnnies are 0-4 since his suspension. "Since we lost him, all of us feel the heat to score," Sampson said. "That could be the reason some people weren't shooting, the pressure, but we were trying to take open shots when we could."
The Red Storm went up, 31-28, early in the second half before Villanova put together a 10-2 run that included Sampson getting called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim, resulting in Darrun Hilliard hitting two free throws. The spurt put the Wildcats up, 50-40, with 8:07 left, and St. John's never got it back to a one-possession game.
Wall Street Journal // St. John's Big East Tournament Ends
Worse, the Red Storm played with little passion. Mouphtaou Yarou scored Villanova's first basket after he grabbed a rebound away from Chris Obekpa. Yarou scored the Wildcats' third basket after JayVaughn Pinkston tore the ball away from Sampson.Marc-Antoine Bourgeault entered the game for St. John's and hit a 3-pointer—except he had stepped on the sideline first. Yarou smacked the ball away from Obekpa, who fouled him. St. John's freshman guard Felix Balamou went down with a leg injury. Obekpa blew a dunk.
But the Red Storm scrambled back into the game by forcing Villanova turnovers—10 in the first half. Sampson made only 2 of 8 shots at one point, but Christian Jones helped him out with a put-back. Bourgeault, inbounds this time, knocked in a three-pointer.
"We were hanging around and doing enough good things to stay in the game," Lavin said.
ed. note: The defense had some strong moments, and kept Villanova off of the line in the first half. The offense, and the poise, struggled at times. Also, it's "Bourgault", WSJ.
The loss marked the end for St. John's in the traditional Big East before the football-basketball split takes place. The question is whether it also was the end of the season for the Red Storm (16-15). An NIT bid seems questionable after a 1-7 finish, and a knowledgeable source said the NIT selection committee would view Harrison's absence as a negative. But St. John's can point to its strength of schedule, respectable 8-10 Big East record and strong New York presence.
St. John's players knew the path to the postseason would have been much easier with an upset of the Wildcats. Anticipating the wait before NIT bids go out Sunday night, JaKarr Sampson said, "We don't want to be in this position, but it happened like that. So, it's a lot of sitting around just waiting to see what we're going to do."
The Red Storm have a 16-15 record overall (8-10 in the Big East). Their RPI was 81 before the loss, and their strength of schedule was 40.
So after the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee chooses what it considers to be the top 37 at-large teams in the nation, the NIT will take the next 32. That's 69 slots. St. John's is at 81 before the loss, their fifth straight and seventh in the past eight games.
The last time the Johnnies got an NIT berth was the 2010 season. The Johnnies were 17-15 that year, but a source told The Post that members of the NIT Selection Committee had to lobby hard for one of the last berths.
The NIT, which was bought out by the NCAA, no longer is based in New York, so St. John's is on its own.
Star watch: Mouphtaou Yarou had a big game for Villanova with 18 points, shooting 9-for-10 from the field. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono scored 15 points but committed eight turnovers. Pinkston had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Greene had 16 points to lead St. John's. Jakarr Sampson, named the Big East Rookie of the Year on Tuesday, had 13 points and nine rebounds but shot just 5-for-18 from the field.
The Johnnies played a great defensive first half, deploying ten different players over the first twenty minutes. They kept Villanova off the free throw line completely while forcing ten turnovers, but the best they could muster was a 24-24 draw going into the break.
The second half fell into a familiar rhythm: Villanova would start to break away before St. John's clawed back, with the occasional 50-50 call from the refs garnering boos from the Garden crowd. With a little over five minutes remaining, the Wildcats started to stretch it out, pushing the margin to a double-digit lead they wouldn't come close to relinquishing over the rest of the game....
St. John's battled, but between some really poor decision-making (the ratio of attempted alley oops to completed ones was rather high) and inability to find a hot hand to carry them, they just couldn't keep up.... Phil Greene and Jakarr Sampson combined for 29 points, but they needed a whopping 37 field goal attempts to get there.
Villanova Official Site // Yarou Helps Lead Wildcats Past St. John's 66-53
"That was a difficult game and you have to give St. John's a lot of credit," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "They lost their leading scorer (D'Angelo Harrison) and you're not just going to go find one. I thought Steve (Lavin) did a great job of finding another way."
"We were struggling in the first half. I felt (in) the second half we got more aggressive against their pressure and started to make some plays and got to the foul line."
NY Daily News/ Filip Bondy // Future bright for St. John's if Steve Lavin's young talent keeps it together
Seize the day, and the game. No other choice. St. John's seemed to understand the urgency of the moment, but its frantic, formless basketball resulted on Wednesday only in a 66-53 loss to physical Villanova in the second round of the Big East tournament. With that defeat, a top freshman recruiting class in Queens was officially wasted.
"I knew right from the outset this would be the most challenging season in my coaching career," Lavin said. "This is the youngest team I've ever been a part of or covered. It's been very unusual. I'm proud this team had to come of age in the toughest league in America in the school of tough knocks. The future's bright."
....St. John's needed a victory for so many reasons, because this season had melted into an untidy puddle. Coming into the Garden, the Storm had dropped four straight, six of seven. Their top scorer, Harrison, was suspended for the season, and there was a real sense that St. John's hadn't just taken a baby step backward lately. The Red Storm had regressed significantly, becoming again a second, third or fourth thought around New York.
Philly.com // Villanova puts away St. John's in Big East opener
For a good chunk of the first half and part of the second Wednesday night, St. John's looked like the team fighting for an NCAA berth and not Villanova.
But after watching the Red Storm be the aggressor in the sloppy, turnover-filled contest, the Wildcats decided to pick up the tempo and left their opponent in the dust, capturing a 66-53 victory in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Villanova again played fast and loose with the basketball against the St. John's pressure, committing 17 turnovers, eight of them by freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono. But while the Red Storm also had 17 turnovers, the Cats outscored them, 26-13, in points off the mistakes.