Youth showed on the road, as St. John's struggled to put up the kind of cohesive offensive attack that they had in the first two games. The Johnnies fell, 92-86 in Minnesota, the final contest of the annual Gavitt Games series for the year.
Minnesota was led by a career-high 30 for forward Amir Coffey, who percolated late in the first half. St. John’s received 29 from Marcus LoVett. Minnesota improves to 4-0, while St. John’s drops to 2-1.
An 11-0 run for St. John's got them rolling in the middle of the first half. But a 13 point lead gave way to sloppy and hurried play that gave Minnesota numerous chances.
At around the six minute mark, Minnesota figured out how to take advantage of those chances - or the Johnnies got a little to eager to attack individually. Either way, the Gophers forced stops and passed the ball up court quickly for Amir Coffey transition dunks, each with a Red Storm player trailing by more than a body length, a defensive spectator.
St. John's also struggled on offense, moving the ball less crisply, driving into traffic, and scored nine points in the last nine minutes of the first half - a stretch that included six turnovers - on the way to a ten-point, 41-31 deficit.
Was it the Minnesota defense?
Or was it the St. John's offense, which featured less movement in the face of the length and athleticism?
Or maybe it was an overall youth flop. The Red Storm were missing in defensive transition on the 14 1st half fast break points; but the second half required a quick timeout when the starting five let Jordan Murphy - who had sat much of the first half with two fouls - slice between two defenders (Bashir Ahmed & Yankuba Sima) for yet another dunk.
As the game went on, the assumed offensive forces for St. John’s - Marcus LoVett, Shamorie Ponds and Ahmed - took turns trying to will the team back. Marcus LoVett was most successful, scoring 27 points on 25 shots.
But that second half effort - and the individual offensive creativity - was not enough to stop Minnesota. The ball movement on offense was missing, as was the pressure defense that earned the Johnnies so many easy scores against lesser opponents. The interior defense had a solid first half - Minnesota shot 35% - but in the second half, the team allowed 56% shooting inside the arc.
Shamorie Ponds added 23. He and LoVett played 38 and 37 minutes, respectively. Bashir Ahmed had a decent showing, adding 15 and 10 rebounds in total. Ponds had eight rebounds; Tariq Owens added six plus a couple of blocks before fouling out.
Minnesota got scoring from Queens native Dupree McBrayer (18 points), Nate Mason (13), and Jordan Murphy (12). Reggie Lynch had six points and 11 rebounds.
St. John’s takes on Michigan State on Wednesday in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.