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Game #17: St. John's 57 vs Pittsburgh Panthers 81

St. John's basketball falls to 7-10 overall, 1-5 in the Big East. Sharing the basement with Rutgers, who beat Villanova last night.

AAAAAARRRRRGGHHHHH.

My friends wonder why I watch this team, and maybe they’re right. Maybe following the Red Storm isn’t the best use of my time. Maybe I should spend my time knitting, or reading about Obama’s chances in the primaries, or creating an Eva Mendes fan blog.

Now that’s an idea…

Here's the box score:

StJ vs Pitt Box Score Jan 23 2008

Sam Young scoring over Paris Horne and Eugene Lawrence St John'sFrom yesterday’s Keys to the Game:

Tough and Ugly? They shot 54% from the field, 53% from beyond the arc, took 22 foul shots, Sam Young went off, hitting everything in sight, and St. John’s had 16 turnovers. It just felt like more. I guess that’s ugly, but for the wrong side.

Offensive Rebounding. No one had more than 5 rebounds on the night. Burrell was in foul trouble much of the evening. Note: Sean Evans had 3 offensive rebounds, and at times looked like he’d played basketball in a playground once. That’s some improvement.

Run? No pressure on the Pitt defense. They were where the Storm was. Mason got his shots off under heavy pressure; the team couldn’t handle the ball on the dribble, and only Sean Evans had a nice offensive rebound/ put back slam.

Look. The long and short of it is that St. John’s sucked last night. One double-digit scorer. 16 turnovers. Offensive ineptitude. The look on Eugene Lawrence’s face at the end of the game—it was like he was crying. Maybe because of injury or his 11 minutes, but more likely about how this is his last collegiate year, and in many ways it’s worse than his first, on a team with guys who shouldn’t have been Big East scholarship players.

Boothe had his moments, with some decent drives to the basket. He also got rejected by Sam Young, who kept up on him on a drive and blocked him from behind. Coker as a starter was a non-factor, but Tomas Jasiulionis on the bench was a defensive turnstile. Kennedy was pressing hard and I can’t believe his stat line had him 3-8 with no turnovers… his questionable handle went south for the winter. Burrell was in foul trouble and when the Johnnies tried to feed him the ball, it was well-defensed. That’s some of the most basic basketball, feeding the post… and the Red Storm can’t do that much. The offense was confused by a really good defense, and the Panthers played with precision AND Sam Young’s hot hand… it was tough to watch.

Larry Wright was scoreless but handled the ball as the point guard for short stretches, with 3 assists. Interesting, very very interesting.

Eva Mendes in Ghost RiderThis game was the dog of dogs. Let’s see what the papers have to say. Besides the basic fact that we got served. It's kind of amusing, really; watching the depths of ineptitude. It's time to make this into the Eva Mendes blog. No, she's appalled by St. Johns' offensive performance too.

In The Papers:

Pitt Pummels Woeful Storm

But all one needed to know that the sad reality had set in - that this will be a long and painful season for St. John's - was to listen to the despair in coach Norm Roberts' voice.

"I would, you know, we ..." Roberts began, his voice halting as he searched to answer a question about his dejected demeanor.

"I chose the path that we're on," said Roberts, who for the first time in the Garden heard the St. John's students call for his firing. "I chose to bring in eight freshmen. I chose to do that for our program and to build a foundation. We have to take our lumps in order to get good."

SJU's Norm Roberts gets Isiah treatment

It has stood for every minute of every game, cheering through losses. They have ridden opponents, and despite their numbers, tried to make the Garden and Carnesecca Arena inhospitable. But even the St. John's student section - the Red Storm's most loyal fans - is getting fed up.

St. John's coach Norm Roberts has said the freshman-laden Red Storm would take its lumps, and pleaded for patience. His overtures were met last night with calls for his job from the student body before even the first half was complete in last night's 81-57 Big East loss to No. 13 Pittsburgh before just 5,219 at the Garden.

There was still 3:21 left before the break and the Panthers, who were without injured starters Mike Cook and Levance Fields, held a 33-20 lead when the student body began to chant "Fire Norm!"

"When it was a close game, the crowd was behind us, but when it slipped away, it felt like they kind of turned on us," said Malik Boothe, who played 28 minutes at point guard with Eugene Lawrence slowed by a sore knee. "It's not them, it's us. We have to play a full game, not 20 minutes."

Pitt dominates St. John's at deserted Garden

Inside the arena St. John's helped make famous, before 14,544 empty seats, the Red Storm took another uncertain step into its second century of men's basketball.

Although the program has suffered more painful defeats in a mostly glorious history, few losses have presented a sadder spectacle than the emotional brownout seen at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. To be fully comprehensive, the final score should be three-sided: Pittsburgh 81-Anthony Mason Jr. 29-St. John's teammates 28.

Post-Game Thoughts on Raining on the Red Storm

It was a slow and steady blowout in the game. Pitt would build a lead, St. John’s would make a little run, then Pitt would make a bigger run to take a bigger lead. That repeated itself multiple times until Pitt was up by as much as 26 and it was time to clear the bench.

Young wills Pitt to win over St. John's

"Mason did a good job of keeping those guys in it," Pitt guard Keith Benjamin said. "Sam did a good job of just torching them and helping us pull away."

More articles and quotes from the Coach and Players, including a Norm Roberts patented "Give [team] a lot of credit..."©:

St. John's Head Coach Norm Roberts, on tonight's game:

"Give Pittsburgh a lot of credit. They have a good team and they are a very opportunistic team. They made some shots. They shot the ball very well. I thought our defense could have been better. It is a grinding time. It is a grinding time for these young guys. They are trying. They are trying hard. We have to just get back in the gym and get better."

On the team's level of intensity:

"I think we tried to (play with intensity early). I am not going to make excuses. Eugene Lawrence has a bum knee. He can't run. Malik Boothe's back gave out on him, 12 minutes into the game. Our whole game was to pressure the point. Once we couldn't pressure the point, it changed our whole game defensively. That affected our defense on what we could do."

On the team's morale:

"I would imagine their confidence isn't very high, but you have to battle through that. We talked about not sticking our heads in the sand. You have to battle, scratch and get through it. It is not going to get any easier. None of the games are getting easier. You just have to get through it."

Anthony Mason Jr. on tonight's game:

"I believe we came out defensively with intensity, but we had to stick to it like Coach Roberts was saying. We were playing the first 20 seconds of the shot clock, but we have to stick with it and play the full 35 seconds. It is something we have to get better at like coach was saying and get back in the gym."

Malik Boothe driving to rimMalik Boothe

On the team:
"Everyone is getting tired of losing here. We have young guys on this team. It is just the lumps we have to take if we are going to get better."

Young in zone for Pitt: Forward pours in 26 against St. John's

"The last few times we've come up here we've lost," junior forward Sam Young said. "I've been telling our guys that for the last three or four days leading up to the game. People were saying, 'Well, St. John's isn't any good this year.' But I said, 'They keep beating us. They always give us a run for our money.' "

Not last night. Young saw to that personally. He scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half to point the way to the blowout victory.

It was a satisfying win for the home-grown Panthers, who had three players competing who grew up in New York.

"We never beat them up here in my four years here," Benjamin said. "We like getting payback on people. We think this is a home court for us. We've played so many games here during the Big East tournament over the years. It's so basic for us to be here and be comfortable."

Pitt Storms St. John’s

"We are playing four freshmen of our eight guys," Dixon added. "I look at it as an opportunity. The learning curve is greater for freshmen. Those guys keep getting better. That is what we are really working on."

The Panthers shot 48 percent in the first half, and 61 in the second. The Panthers played patient in settled situations, and converted fast breaks off the defensive stops and transition. Gilbert Brown had seven points, four of which came in transition.

The Panthers also had one of their best nights from three-point range, hitting 8-of-15 shots. Young was 3-of-6, while Keith Benjamin, was 2-of-3.

For the first time in its six Big East conference games, St. Johns was outrebounded by its opponent. Pitt finished with a 36-29 edge in rebounding, led by Blair, who finished with eight. Blair was also able to stay out of foul trouble, picking up just two fouls. St. John's started Dele Coker to create more of a post-presence, but luckily for the Panthers, Blair had a near double-double, and stayed out of foul trouble.

Even the Message boards diss the Storm:

** After all, the Red Storm wasn't even as threatening as NYC smog. And the truth be told, the margin could have been much, much more if Anthony Mason, Jr. hadn't been hitting shots better than at any other time in his life.

** Actually, I was a little bit disappointed in St. John's. Although I haven't had a good look at them this year, I figured them for a little more of a challenge than this. Their lack of point guard play is shockingly bad for this League….

** The beauty and the glory of Pitt basketball has been watching a team that works hard in complex sets to get great shots. And while it can be pretty nice to watch, it can also be a little tough at times, even tedious when we can't find our way to one of these good shots. As I started with these thoughts this evening, I said tonight wasn't about things being hard ... it was about them being easy. And I've surely got no problem with the ease of "give the ball to Sam and watch him go." What I can't understand is why St. John's never tried to double him, but that's their problem.

And, NY Times Pitt Routs St. John’s