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Game 18: St. John's gives away free throws, Cincinnati wins 53-51

I thought their kids played extremely hard. -Mick Cronin, postgame presser

That sounds like what opposing coaches would say about St. John's last year, huh? Okay, St. John's fans. Let's take a breath, realize this isn't the end of the world and...

Freak out. This was a bad loss. Not for who the Red Storm lost to - the Cincinnati Bearcats aren't the worst team in the conference or anything.  But losing this game, at home, in Carnesecca Arena, is bad.  Cincinnati is probably St. John's rival for the last NCAA spot for the Big East  - even if the league gets 9.  And while the Red Storm's lack of height is a bad matchup for the Bearcats' length, this ugly grind of a game was winnable.

But in a close game, shooting 12-25 from the free throw line (48%) is a complete killer. It's awful. I know each player who missed free throws is kicking themselves right now - they've been so crisp all season, they've worked so hard to get to this point. But it's awful.

Part of the issue is that Sean Evans got 7 free throws, and he hasn't been a good shooter from the line (he converted 4-7). I get that.  But D.J. Kennedy going 4-8 from the line? Justin Burrell's 1-4? Hardy's miss of the front of a 1 and 1?

That's the game right there. St. John's falls to 11-7, 4-4 in the Big East; and the upcoming opponents are the Georgetown Hoyas at home, looking for revenge, and the 4th ranked Duke Blue Devils. St. John's big men couldn't hit shots, and the squad shot an effective FG% of 45%, to Cincy's 50%.

On the plus side, the Red Storm only had 7 turnovers - around 12% of their possessions. D.J. Kennedy and Dwight Hardy shared the scoring lead with 10 points each; they combined for 4 in the first half. Kennedy struggled to find his shot, and Hardy dealt with foul trouble. The team got some nice stretches from Sean Evans and solid shooting from Malik Boothe.

Cincinnati improves to 17-3, 4-3 in the Big East, and they should be overjoyed; this puts the Bearcats on the right side of the NCAA bubble. They were led by Yancy Gates who was invisible in the first half but ended up with 13 points. Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick combined for 1 point - by Kilpatrick.

The Bricklayin' Bearcats were given a boost by Justin Jackson's 8 points and 6 rebounds (1 offensive), Larry Davis' 9 points, and Cashmere Wright with 10 points (and 6 turnovers). Anthony McClain also gave them great minutes.