Start a slow clap for one of the worst performances of the season for St. John's.
#1 NIT seed St. John's fell behind early, allowed 50% shooting from beyond the arc from the NIT #8 seed, Robert Morris, in the first half. Playing without Rysheed Jordan (sitting with tonsillitis), St. John's was a living embodiment of a team that was too annoyed about missing the NCAA Tournament to play with any attentiveness. The Red Storm end a lackluster season by getting blasted by Robert Morris, 89-78.
"I thought Robert Morris came out and beat us to the punch in every phase of the game," Lavin said.
Robert Morris' Karvel Anderson scored a career-high 38 points. Lucky Jones added 25. Robert Morris once again knocks off a #1 seed in the NIT; last year, they beat the Kentucky Wildcats, similarly disappointed about not making the NCAA Tournament.
The Red Storm end the season 20-13, and leave even more frustrations from fans about the season. Robert Morris continues in the NIT and will play on the road against the winner of Green Bay and Belmont.
[Box score | Game thread]
"Obviously a great win for our program," said Andy O'Toole, the Robert Morris Colonials' head coach. "They wanted to continue their season, and that's exactly what they've done. It was all about getting over the disappointment of our conference championship."
The Colonials' star Karvel Anderson spoke of his team's focus. "A lot of people think the NIT isn't worth their time," he said, "but we think differently. I sensed in us that we were ready."
Robert Morris - a team with eight men on the roster after defections and suspensions - came out to play. The Colonials moved the ball on offense and found their spots. Meanwhile, St. John's, facing a zone defense and just missing shots, looked beaten early. RMU shot the ball well and played their game - lots of threes - and St. John's didn't defend the perimeter well at all.
"They just started hot, and everything that went up seemed like it went in," said Jamal Branch. "We didn't give our all until the last seven minutes of the game. We're disappointed."
St. John's got within single digits in the last four minutes, but didn't have enough defense to pull out the win from the jaws of defeat.
The Red Storm went down 16-2 after JaKarr Sampson earned a technical for grabbing Lucky Jones' throat after Jones drilled a three in his face. It was that kind of night, with St. John's playing with the same lack of energy that plagued the team against Youngstown State and Longwood and Monmouth, et cetera, et cetera.
Did the team not have enough left in the tank after the February surge? Are there deeper problems?
"With the quick turnaround from Sunday to Tuesday," Lavin said, "we just didn't have the energy that's necessary to win at this stage."
"This group made progress. Naturally, the expectations will be ratcheted up with what we return."
It will be a long offseason, but St. John's returns most of the team's main contributors, hoping to reach the NCAA Tournament. Max Hooper paced the team with 18 points in 23 minutes, shooting 6/12; Hooper last topped 20 minutes against Penn State. Jamal Branch added a season high 22, with 12 of those points in the last minute of the game as the Colonials played off of him. Marc-Antoine Bourgault scored 6 in his first extended action in months; he logged 11 minutes, matching his season-high from the Fordham game.
St. John's was down as much as 24 points in the loss.
Karvel Anderson shot 9/15 from beyond the arc. Lucky Jones added 6/12 from beyond the three-point line.