St. John's saw their NCAA Tournament hopes take a major hit late Tuesday night, as they suffered an embarrassing 77-74 loss to the lowly Creighton Blue Jays in Omaha.
Behind a career-high 21 points from freshman forward Toby Hegner, the Blue Jays and their hot 3-point shooting were able to upset the Johnnies and snap their nine-game losing streak to pick up their first Big East win of the season. Guard James Milliken also scored 17 for Creighton on 5 of 10 shooting in the game.
For St. John's, D`Angelo Harrison led the way with 18 points, and 13 of them coming in the second half. He once again struggled from the field for the fourth straight game, shooting just 4-15 overall for the game, including a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer. Jamal Branch also played an outstanding game for the Red Storm before fouling out late in the second half, as he scored a season-high 17 points on just 12 shots, and dished out four assists as well.
Sir`Dominic Pointer had another solid game for the Red Storm, as he scored 13 points, grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, and dished out a team-high six assists. This was Pointer's third straight game with a double-double, and his fifth overall on the season.
Meanwhile, Rysheed Jordan scored just four points on 2-4 shooting and did not play at all in the entire second half with a strained left knee. The injury, while not believed to be serious, was a major blow to St. John's in this one as it forced them to go with essentially a five-man rotation for much of the second half (with one of those five being the still-injured Harrison).
Both teams got off to an incredibly slow start in the first half, with just four points combined being scored in the games first's six minutes, but that would not last for long. Facing a St. John's zone that has been notoriously bad against defending the 3-point shot in Big East play this season, Creighton went off from beyond the arc in the first, going 9-19 from 3 in the half. The Blue Jays ended the half on a 14-5 run, fueled mostly by 3's, and they took a 10-point, 37-27 lead at the break. Toby Hegner led the way for the Blue Jays at the half with 12 points on perfect 4-4 shooting from 3-point range, while Harrison and Sir`Dominic Pointer tied for the St. John's lead with five points apiece.
Fueled by a 15-2 run right out of the gate, the Red Storm jumped out to an early 42-39 lead to begin the second half. But things would remain close for much of the second half, as the teams traded mini-runs but neither was able to pull away as the half went on. With the Red Storm down by four with under one minute left to play, Harrison hit an absolutely ridiculous shot after what looked like a broken possession for St. John's to pull the Johnnies within one with 13 seconds left.
After a pair of Hegner free throws put Creighton back up by three, 75-72, Harrison forced an extremely contested 3 from the wing that missed, and although Amar Alibegovic was able to grab the offensive rebound, he quickly shot and made a two-pointer that pulled St. John's within one but left them with less than five seconds to come back. After two more Hegner free throws, Harrison was forced to launch a 3 at the buzzer that missed, and St. John's fell 77-74.
St. John's allowed Creighton to shoot 13-30 from 3-point range, and most of those shots were wide open as the Red Storm struggled to step out on shooters for much of the night. Their inability to defend the 3-point shot has really been their downfall in Big East play so far, and that downfall may have hit rock bottom tonight.
Now at 13-7 overall and still in 8th-place in the Big East with a 2-5 conference record, St. John's will try to stop their season from spinning out of control when they take on the Providence Friars on Saturday afternoon at 12:00 P.M.