Reflections from yesterday's 69-54 win - a win that keeps the Red Storm's NCAA bubble hopes alive.
Rumble in the Garden recap // St. John's vs. USF final: Johnnies handle USF Bulls, 69-54, at Carnesecca Arena - Rumble In The Garden
The Red Storm (16-10, 8-6 Big East) handled South Florida (10-16, 1-13 Big East), 69-54, at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday night. JaKarr Sampson led the way for the Johnnies with 20 points, while D`Angelo Harrison added 18 points and Sir`Dominic Pointer contributed 12 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.
With the victory, St. John's kept its NCAA bubble hopes alive, while avoiding a low-RPI loss that would have unquestionably crushed them.
A fiery, clipboard-tossing timeout lecture from Steve Lavin sparked the Red Storm again. Seven consecutive points, a forced shot clock violation, and a drawn offensive foul later, the Johnnies brought its lead back up to 19 with seven minutes left.
For a team made up almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, Lavin has offered almost exclusively positive reinforcement and encouragement.
Not this time.
He thinks they’ve matured enough to take it. And he said, "there are times where you have to turn up the heat. My job as a coach is to be a truth-teller and present the appropriate amount of urgency for what is at stake."
Time to put away the pacifiers. Players such as D’Angelo Harrison (18 points) and Phil Greene IV have started more than 50 games each. Sir’Dominic Pointer (12 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) has started 39. Freshman JaKarr Sampson (20 points, seven rebounds) has started 26.
It’s time to man up and Lavin delivered that message loud and clear.
"That’s a big step for us,’’ said Harrison. "He usually doesn’t blow a gasket, so when he does it’s time to lock in again.’’
Newsday // St. John's finishes off South Florida
When Collins picked up his fourth foul with 17:16 left in the game, things figured to get worse for the Bulls, but Rudd scored eight points in a 13-3 run that cut the deficit to 44-32. When Jawanza Poland scored on an alley-oop dunk with 4:48 left, the lead was down to 51-41, and that's where Lavin lit into his team.
"We're trying not to let it happen, but we're still working on it," Harrison said of the Storm's propensity to lose big leads. "We weren't in jeopardy, but we needed to close the game. Like coach said, we're not close to what we can be."
Red Storm Sports // Red Storm Rises In Queens To Turn Away USF, 69-54
"I wasn't pleased with stretches where we lost our focus and concentration," Lavin said of a second-half timeout he called when he could be heard over the home crowd, letting his team know he didn't like what he was seeing. "We lost the concentration we need to put good teams away. But we recaptured the focus and salted the win away. With our schedule stepping up we can't have those lapses or teams will go on runs and that will make it less likely that we will do something special in March."
ESPN NY // Rapid Reaction: St. John's 69, USF 54
St. John’s opened the second half on an 8-2 run, taking its largest lead, 41-19, with 15:47 left in the game. South Florida didn’t fold, closing to within nine, 59-50, with 1:25 to play. But the Red Storm put the Bulls away from there.
Mike McCloskey also gave the Bulls a big lift offensively. The little-used senior point guard was forced into action when Anthony Collins picked up his fourth foul with 17:18 remaining in the game. McCloskey played 12 minutes and had three assists and no turnovers.
"When he was in the game we were plus-16 scoring," coach Stan Heath said of McCloskey. "I think that says it all. He gave us movement, he gave us spacing and he's got a good feel for how to play."
Better movement against the zone helped USF fix some of its offensive woes. After shooting 25 percent in the first half, the Bulls shot 48 percent in the second and 50 percent from 3-point range. The free-throw shooting didn't improve, though, as USF shot 3-of-12 from the line.
Tampa Tribune // Bulls slide continues: St. John's hands USF 9th straight loss
A rough shooting performance in the first half doomed South Florida as it fell behind by double-digits within the first five minutes en route to its ninth straight Big East loss Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena in Queens. The nine straight losses continues the school’s longest losing streak since it lost 10 straight in Heath’s first year in 2007-08.
"We’ve got to maintain a rhythm offensively and not have long droughts. It’s hard because we’re getting some looks and when they don’t go in it kind of gets into your mind a little bit and messes with you," Heath said. "Unfortunately, it just takes five, seven minutes where you’re not scoring and all of a sudden the team goes on a 10-0 run and you dig yourself a deficit and it’s hard to recover."
ESPN NY // Big Dance still within Red Storm's grasp
...an NCAA Tournament bid, and it remains well within grasp. St. John’s entered play Wednesday night firmly on the bubble -- among the first four teams out of the field, according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
A win at home over South Florida won’t boost the résumé a whole lot, but a loss would have been a major black eye.
There are four regular season games remaining. Three of them are against Top 25 opponents, starting with No. 20 Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. By the time we get to the Big East tournament, St. John’s could be a lock for the Big Dance, or the Red Storm could have virtually no chance. Or, they could be right where they are now -- squarely on the bubble.
Capital New York // St. John's basketball gets Lavin back, which is a start
What the two losses [to Louisville and Syracuse] didn't do was eliminate St. John's from contention. Following the Connecticut win, St. John's had a Ratings Percentage Index ranking of 59; the two losses against highly-ranked Syracuse and Louisville actually improved their overall standing, to 58.
But that is well shy of the R.P.I. in the 30s or 40s that is usually necessary to secure an at-large bid. At present, E.S.P.N. Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has them as the fifth team out of the field. Fortunately, they'll get the chance to nail down some R.P.I-boosting wins....
Wednesday night against South Florida at Carnesecca Arena was the easiest of the bunch, with the Bulls entering at just 10-15, and a 130 R.P.I. A road game against surging Providence would give St. John's a more impressive win than the Friars' R.P.I. of 86 currently makes it seem. And the remaining three games, against Notre Dame (R.P.I. of 50), Pittsburgh (32) and Marquette (14) are each chances to further bolster that resume.
Newsday // Red Storm's Lavin appreciates time to grieve
"It's not something you script," Lavin said. "But those things happen in life, and what I'm grateful for is to have such a good group of young people to work with and then such an outstanding staff that has been able to help me navigate through some of these personal challenges."....
....through his example, Lavin reinforced the meaning of family and priorities. He said it was the first time in 35 years that he and his three brothers and two sisters all were together under one roof with his 79-year-old mother, Mary, who was married to Cap for 60 years.