Memphis Tigers advance to the second round of the NIT to face Mississippi (aka Ole Miss). St. John's ends the season with a 17-16 record.
The season ends with a good second half, D.J. Kennedy and Mason arguing about positioning on the wing, Mason defending a floater that snuck in just after the buzzer, and Malik Boothe on the ground as the Memphis players jumped up all around him. Paris Horne had a poor shooting night, but also 5 assists; Sean Evans couldn't get any shots to fall over the soft Memphis interior defense, going 0 for 9.
Anthony Mason Jr. found his shot in his hometown, going 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and scoring 17, with 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Sorry that this result finally came when the season ends.
The announcers called Sean Evans' night a nightmare, and I would agree. Nothing, just nothing would go in the basket for him. Justin Brownlee was excellent in his stead on offense, while Justin Burrell was saddled with foul trouble, stretches of passive play, and didn't see the ball enough.
DJ Kennedy led the team with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Despite early foul trouble (which brought in Omari Lawrence at times to play the point - he was effective in spurts), Malik Boothe was solid, 7 assists, 10 points on 4 shots, and 2 turnovers. If he plays like this next year, St. John's can really surprise.
re: Keys of the Game
Attack Inside. The Tigers were passive defenders, but St. John's had trouble getting the ball inside to the interior players. Memphis played a zone; St. John's worked the ball inside somewhat but preferred to take three-point shots in the first half. Sean Evans tried to attack inside... but had a horrible game. C
Win the Rebounding Battle. St. John's did win the rebounding battle (16 offensive rebounds, but couldn't get the second chance shots to go in. The extra shot attempts allowed the game to be as close as the final score; St. John's was badly outshot from the field inside (48.1% to 37.8%) and from beyond the arc (44% to 55%). B+
Get Shots Off. The pace was slow and deliberate for most of the game, and St. John's had fewer turnovers - and far more shot attempts, 62 to 47 - than the Tigers. Better if they hit more of the shots, though; they finished with a decent effective field goal percentage of 49.2%, not enough to put away the Tigers. B
Defend the Drive and Kick. I was wrong about this one. They didn't rely on the drive and kick; in fact, Elliot Williams looked to passive to drive at times. But they did pass, feint inside, and pass to a three-point shooter often. St. John's didn't defend it spectacularly all game. D
Bring the Effort/ Good Defensive Energy. The defensive energy was missing in the first half. The team was trying, but not bumping the three-point shooters. As coach Roberts stated, the Tigers were able to step into their shots. The second half was much better, but too little, too late. C-
"We've got great kids, and the job I was told to do or asked to do when I came here was improve this program. There's no doubt we have done that. There's no doubt we've got a chance to be very, very good next year."
St. John's athletic director Chris Monasch watched the game from the scorer's table, a few feet from Roberts' coaching box. After the game, Monasch would say little about Roberts' future.
"We'll evaluate it in the next few days," he said.
Red Storm Sports: Memphis Buzzer-Beater Hangs Heartbreaker On St. John's, 73-71
"We knew we had to get out and pressure them more and not make it easy for them," Roberts said of a second-half change in defensive strategy. "I thought we let them walk into some 3s."
Roberts was right. As well as Memphis shot in the first half, the Tigers couldn't keep pace. The lead dwindled at the start of the second half as St. John's pulled within one on several occasions near the midway point of the half.
Tiger Beat: NIT 1st Round: Tigers 73, St. John's 71
"I have never experienced anything like that in my life," said an ebullient Will Coleman after the game. "The noise when the ball went through almost tore the roof off the Forum. I've never, ever heard anything that loud in my life. It was great; I'm glad I was on the winning team." Coleman lifted his game against the Big East visitors, scoring 10 points and adding 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. But like each of his teammates, it was Witherspoon's buzzer-beater that was the talk of the locker room.
"It was a lucky shot," admitted Witherspoon. "I won't say I tried to make it like that, but it went in by the grace of God. The play was for Elliot, to get to the basket and make an unbelievable shot. But I saw the defense collapse, and I called for the ball. I lost the ball for a second, but I got it back and I made the shot."