It wasn't close. In a quiet St. Pete Times Forum, the St. John's Red Storm took a slow beating at the hands of the Bulls, 64-49, struggling to convert shots early, and then struggling to defend the Bulls late. St. John's falls to 8-10, 2-5 in the Big East. South Florida improves to 11-8, 4-2 in the league.
Maurice Harkless lead the team with 12 points and 7 rebounds. God`sgift Achiuwa had 11, Phil Greene added ten (and 5 assists), most in a solid first half that saw him hit a pair of jumpers off the dribble, a sign of progress. St. John's shot 2-12 form outside the arc, missed a pair of dunks in the first half, and struggled to get D`Angelo Harrison (2-8, 8 points, 0 assists) in position to score.
More, below the fold.
The moment of excitement on the night: with 5:37 left in a blowout, South Florida's Victor Rudd (24 points, 8 total rebounds) chose to drive into the paint, looking to add to his highlight reel. Rudd had already uncorked a quartet of long jumpers, a welcome sight for the 28% three-point shooter who plays like a 48% shooter; he's scored 14 points in the half at that point.
So of course he got a mostly-unbothered highlight reel slam on Achiuwa for his highlight reel. The crowd of 3000 plus people cheered like they were supposed to, and returned to their normal quiet.
Rudd's performance was joined by 16 points (on 8 of 16 shooting, 5-7 from beyond the arc) and 8 total rebounds for Jawanza Poland off the bench. Ron Anderson Jr. had 9 points and 7 rebounds. The Bulls struggled to score in the first four minutes but cruised the rest of the way, despite turning the ball over on 24% of their possessions. South Florida rebounded 44% of their own misses.
Next up: a 1pm contest against Villanova at the Garden. Villanova dispatched a solid Seton Hall team at home tonight.
Obviously, scoring is a problem. Since the Providence game, the Red Storm have struggled to score. St. John's points per possession in the last 5 games: .79, .88, .91, .82, .88. No matter how you slice it, they're struggling to score, whether the tempo is fast or slow.
St. John's is struggling to control pace. Tonight's game was a 55 possession game. South Florida bled the clock. So did Georgetown (60 possessions). But Louisville and Marquette both sped the game up - 73 and 70 possessions each. St. John's is not finding ways to impose their will/ control possession. They're not forcing enough turnovers, getting runouts, or ending possessions by getting defensive boards.
A lackluster performance. The team defended Gus Gilchrist well (4 points), but couldn't bother Victor Rudd... or get Harrison and Harkless going until garbage time. And the team only drew 13 free throw attempts - a season low. Part of that was the South Florida defense, but the Bulls do tend to foul.
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