It was a much more promising performance than this past weekend's debacle against Incarnate Word and NJIT, but St. John's was still defeated by an aggressive 25th ranked South Carolina team (11-0), 75 to 61, at Mohegan Sun on Tuesday night.
Durand Johnson, who showed his streaky shooting abilities, was the team's leading scorer as he put up 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting while grabbing six boards. Federico Mussini, 12 points and five turnovers, had a difficult time dealing with the length of Gamecocks point guard P.J. Dozier while Yankuba Sima scored seven points and Christian Jones added a solid 10 points and three boards.
The Johnnies looked like a team with something to prove in the opening minutes as they jumped out to a quick 9-4 lead and had the upper hand through the first three media timeouts, showing plenty of competitiveness, toughness and fire on both ends of the floor. The ball movement (seven assists on 14 field goals), lack of turnovers (six in the first half) and attacking mentality (12 Gamecock fouls) kept the Red Storm in the game in the opening half.
The Gamecocks went on a quick 10-0 run and opened up a double digit lead with less than three minutes left in the first stanza as they took advantage of multiple St. John's defensive breakdowns. Duane Notice (20 total in the game) scored 14 points and contributed to the team's 56 percent three point shooting percentage in the first half. South Carolina also took advantage of Sima's foul trouble, beating the Johnnies on the glass 24-12 in the first.
But the Gamecocks still only supported a six-point lead at the break because of the Red Storm's energy.
In the second frame, the Johnnies used their transition attack and the hot shooting from Johnson to hang around and even get within eight points early. But the Gamecocks talent level and the horrid free throw shooting from the Johnnies (44 percent) prevented St. John's from inching any closer.
Michael Carrera and Chris Silva jump started a 7-0 South Carolina run with less than six minutes remaining that put the game out of reach for good. While the Johnnies only turned the ball over 14 total times and shot 45 percent from the field, they let their opponent knock down 54 percent of their threes and were dominated on the glass 43 to 26.
The Gamecocks maintained their usual balance with four players scoring in double figures, including Carrera (16 points and 12 boards) and Laimonas Chatkevicius (11 points).
Felix Balamou (foot) missed his third straight game and with no update from the NCAA on point guard Marcus LoVett, he remained out.
The Red Storm (7-6) will have an eight day break before they begin Big East Conference play against a hot-shooting Creighton team.