Never say die.
The Red Storm, hoping to streak their way into the NCAA Tournament, knocked off the Golden Eagles 91-90 in a game featuring lead changes, high energy, mistakes, and four thrilling finishes to halves between two evenly-matched teams.
D`Angelo Harrison (20 points, seven total rebounds) scored five straight in the second overtime to put the Red Storm in position to win. There were 15 lead changes, 18 ties and 181 points scored in an afternoon that left fans on both sides gasping for air.
"Don't count us out," Harrison said after the game.
"This team, they just have a great bounce back resiliency, spirit, that won't be defeated," Lavin added.
St. John's improves to 20-11 and 10-8 in the Big East, while Marquette falls to 17-14, 9-9 in the Big East. St. John's finishes as the fifth team in the Big East - matching the preseason prediction, but a great surge from 0-5 on the season - and will play on the second day of the league tournament on Thursday, March 13.
[Box score | Game thread]
It was match befitting two teams brawling to meet the expectations they set early in the season. Neither had a massive amount to gain from the game - no bids would be granted on the strength of a late-season match between two mid-pack Big East teams - but both had a solid amount to lose Saturday afternoon on Marquette's senior day.
It was a game filled with momentum swings, with Davante Gardner (21 points, three rebounds, four turnovers) starting out hot (and eliciting a timeout from Steve Lavin after 58 seconds). St. John's recovered with a hot start from Phil Greene IV (11 points) and started to look comfortable, despite choppy play and eight first-half turnovers.
At the end of the first 20 minutes, a buzzer-beating Jake Thomas (14 points) three off of an inbound turnover was indicative of the first half - the Red Storm were handling their business when they got chances to shoot, but were falling prey to Marquette's traps and energy. Thomas' three-pointer gave the Golden Eagles a lead in a game where they had not shot well.
The second half swung back and forth, with the Red Storm coming out hot and active with thieving hands. But Buzz William's team, just as hungry to win but just as sloppy, found their way back into the game
Late in the second half JaKarr Sampson trapped Jamil Wilson (15 points, seven rebounds) in the corner by St. John's bench, got the steal and passed to Chris Obekpa (six points, nine rebounds) for the dunk to give St. John's a one-point lead that the Johnnies wouldn't relinquish.
Or so we thought.
St. John's held them scoreless for three minutes. And then at the end of regulation... the following happened.
- St. John's had a six point lead with 22 seconds left in the game. The game was over.
- But Chris Obekpa fouled out defending Davante Gardner in the post, sending him to the line. He made two free throws.
- But Rysheed Jordan's inbounds play ended up in the hands of Marquette's Jake Thomas, who laid it in.
- But Orlando Sanchez was fouled and had a chance to ice the game; he missed his free throw.
- But Todd Mayo took the ball at the perimeter, got into the lane and made a buzzer-beating layup.
What happened next:
Todd Mayo went semi-HAM in the first overtime with five points but missed free throws (and lost the ball with a chance to win at the end of that overtime).
Rysheed Jordan was fouled with 15 seconds left but only hit one of two free throws; the first tied the game, but the second miss led to Todd Mayo's muffed attempt to win the game.
In the second overtime, with Obekpa fouled out, there was a lot of the good of God`sgift Achiuwa - his energy - and the bad - his free throw shooting. He shot 2 of 6 in the second overtime from the free throw line. But D`Angelo Harrison's five straight points were enough to tie, putting Rysheed Jordan in position to take the lead with a free throw (he missed the other).
Achiuwa finished with four points and six rebounds, but his energy picked the Johnnies up late as St. John's went to a zone to slow down the Golden Eagles.
"He can put lumber on a player," Lavin said of the graduate student forward. "I think Gift's work on the back line of our zone [defense] was one of the differences that allowed us to get the win in a tough environment."
St. John's will face either Providence or Xavier next, depending on the Friars game against Creighton. If Providence wins, St. John's gets Xavier.
The road to the NCAA Tournament won't be easy, and Lavin knows it.
"I think to get to 20 wins is a positive step," Lavin said, "[But we need to] continue to win games and build that resume or body of work and take the decision out of the selection committee's hands."
Each team had 14 turnovers.
St. John's missed 14 of 30 free throws, while Marquette missed 10 of their 32 attempts. St. John's 8/16 mark in the second half of regulation undid a half where they had done just enough to win the game.
Rysheed Jordan finished with 20 points and six assists; JaKarr Sampson also finished with 20 points. He added two steals and five rebounds.
Marquette was led by Gardner's 21 points, Todd Mayo's 20 and Jamil Wilson's 15 points. Deonte Burton added 10 points.