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No Hollywood ending: St. John's loses 66-59 to UCLA Bruins

I. Unhappy recap | II. One-on-five basketball | III. Keys of the game recap | IV. News coverage

I. Unhappy recap


A triumphant return just wasn't in the cards for Steve Lavin and his visiting Red Storm. Despite Dwight Hardy's 32 points, the St. John's Red Storm (13-9) didn't have enough to beat the UCLA Bruins (16-7) on Saturday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion, losing 66-59. The Johnnies had no answer for the Bruins' inside game... or their size.

Combined with overly eager slap-fouling in the first 6 minutes of the second half - 7 fouls by the 14:00 minute mark - St. John's played from behind from the 2:00 mark in the first half and battled, but never recovered.

The 41-7 free throw disparity in favor of the UCLA Bruins was the difference in a game where neither side could find offensive flow. The Bruins took more free throws than they took shots; St. John's shot 63 times, while the Bruins shot 37 times from the field. That free throw disparity is galling, but the Johnnies found themselves reaching and slapping needlessly; many of those foul calls were deserved.

Dwight Hardy's 32 points (60.4% effective field goal %) carried the team; though he did have 4 turnovers. D.J. Kennedy made some solid defensive plays, with 6 rebounds (2 offensive) and 6 steals along with his 6 points (on 8 shots).

For UCLA, whose fans are joyous right now, they got great scoring from Joshua Smith. He had 19 points on 8 shots, 8 rebounds (4 of those offensive), and 3 blocks on the Johnnies. Guard Malcolm Lee used his athleticism to draw 13 fouls, scoring 15 points overall. And Reeves Nelson was the other player the Red Storm had no answer for: 12 points, despite only 4 field goals taken, 17 total rebounds (6 offensive), and a dagger three-pointer to stretch the lead to 6 with :35 seconds left in the game.

Some may say that the referees put too much time back on the clock, but blaming the referees is a loser's trick.

More on the game, and the disturbing nature of the one-man St. John's performance, below.

II. One-on-five basketball

The game changed once Joshua Smith's big waistline checked into the game. The Bruins could attack down low, disrupt the Red Storm on offense, and generally own the one place where most of the Red Storm offense is effective - the low post. St. John's has really struggled to play against active height. And today, Smith and Reeves Nelson were generally energetic and into the game.

The rest of the Bruins keyed off of that, drawing fouls - 41 free throws on 37 shots! A 110% FTA/FGA rate! - and working the paint like Edward Hopper. The Bruins got to more than half of their available offensive boards (51%), scored on 60% of their shots inside the arc, and generally held the Red Storm down. The Johnnies shot 39% inside the arc. Despite forcing 22 turnovers, the Red Storm only scored 22 points off of Bruin miscues - the Johnnies have to score more transition points to beat most teams.

There was only one offensive player for St. John's - Dwight Hardy. The Red Storm played one-on-five ball against the Bruins. Hardy shot 13-24 - an eFG of 60%. The non-Hardy part of the team: eFG of 32%.

The others were bottled up by the Bruin size. Justin Brownlee, who needs to be the team's go-to guy in the deep post, had 2 points on 1 of 9 shooting, with 3 rebounds and 2 turnovers. Justin Burrell had some nice moments, but only ended up with 4 points despite 3 offensive rebounds. The closest thing to a spark the Red Storm had was Dwayne Polee II, who scored 6 points on 6 shots, and had 3 nice defensive rebounds (1 offensive). Those 6 points tied D.J. Kennedy for the second leading scorer on the Storm.

That's not going to work. The staff grasped at straws, putting in Dele Coker with Sean Evans at one point to slow down the Bruins inside game. Coker responded with 3 quick fouls.

All in all, a frustrating return for Steve Lavin. But in the end, it has to be remembered as just another non-conference game. The return has happened, Steve Lavin can breathe easier, the UCLA fans and media can move on, while St. John's turns to a bigger NCAA-Tournament threatening problem.

How is this team going to handle more Big East bigs, like Connecticut's Alex Oriakhi?

III. Keys of the Game recap

Maintain focus.The Red Storm seemed focused, battling all the way through in Pauley Pavilion. They didn't take smart shots when they were down, and in the second half, got a little too grabby for the Pac-10 referees. B-

Collapse in the Paint.The paint was the Bruins' today. The press left open spaces for Josh Smith to work, and Reeves Nelson capitalized as well. As did Malcolm Lee on his drives. F

Turnover Canyon.The one thing St. John's did well is turn over the youthful and sloppy Bruins (35% of their possessions ended without a shot/ free throw). Lazeric Jones had 6 of UCLA's 22 turnovers. A

Run a Little. St. John's found themselves in a sloppy, 63 possession game. Not a lot of opportunity to run and test their runners against the Red Storm's athletes. Unfortunately, that's where the Johnnies are probably at their best. D-

Hit the Open Shots. Missed offensive put backs. Missed jumpers. I don't know that there were a lot of open shots for the Red Storm, but they didn't or couldn't hit much of anything from the field. Dwight Hardy was stellar in creating and making shots, however. C-

IV. Media Coverage

Red Storm Sports recap

SB Nation: St. John's Basketball Score And Reaction: Dwight Hardy's Coming Out Party
I don't know what it is about the St. John's basketball program and it's flair for the dramatics, but Steve Lavin and Co. seem to be really good at it. Despite losing, 66-59, Saturday afternoon at the UCLA Bruins, the Red Storm, again, found themselves in a last-minute battle on nation television that showed college basketball in NYC has returned.

NY Post: Storm shafted at line in Lavin's return to UCLA

How do you look the losing coach in the face and congratulate him on what a terrific game his team played when the home squad went to the foul line 41 times and visitors got there seven times?

"They were in the penalty with 16 minutes left," St. John's guard Dwight Hardy said. "It's tough to defend without fouling when you're in the penalty like that."

Lavin, who was an assistant and head coach at UCLA from 1991-2003, would not discuss the officiating on the record, which tells you all you need to know. Hardy said the refs (from the Pac-10) didn't decide the game, St. John's did by committing some late fundamental blunders -- like not boxing out on the free throw line. Fair enough.

NY Daily News: St. John's falls to UCLA in Steve Lavin's first return to Pauley Pavilion since his dismissal
IN HIS FINAL season as UCLA's basketball coach, Steve Lavin was badly criticized by Bruins fans for losing games at the team's iconic Pauley Pavilion. When his team lost there Saturday, there were cheers.

LA Daily News:

UCLA shows St. John's who's boss, defeats Red Storm, former Bruins coach Lavin - LA Daily News

UCLA, 16-7 and winners of 13 of its past 16, made up for its porous late-game foul shooting - the Bruins made just 3 of 10 free throws in the final four minutes - with crucial offensive rebounding. Nelson and sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt teamed for three big boards following missed free throw attempts down the stretch that chewed up clock and let UCLA control the tempo.

"As a coach - and I'm thinking about Steve - that just kills you as a coach when they have inside positioning," Howland said. "That happened to us against ASU twice, down the stretch, and it allowed them to get back into the game. ... That was great, I was so pleased to be on the other side of that."