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St. John's vs. Providence final: 90-76; Red Storm put together rough defensive performance

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The Johnnies played poorly for the third straight game.

By: Wendell Cruz
By: Wendell Cruz

It sure was a better performance than the clunker at Creighton, but St. John's continued their streak of ineffective play and ugly defense on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

The Johnnies were crushed by Providence, 90 to 76, on Senior Day as the Red Storm let the Friars shoot 48 percent overall from the field and 42 percent from downtown. They couldn't stop Jalen Lindsey, who put up a career high 30 points, and Ben Bentil (23 points and 10 rebounds) was on another level for most of the day.

"Providence came out and executed," Durand Johnson said following the game. "Give that team credit. Lindsey made some threes and once a guy gets hot, it's college basketball, it's going to be a long night. We had a hard time defending him but we just got to learn from it."

The Red Storm seniors, Ron Mvouika, Durand Johnson and Felix Balamou, combined to score 29 points while Christian Jones put up 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Kassoum Yakwe added seven points, Yankuba Sima scored 10 points and Federico Mussini added four points. Malik Ellison and Amar Alibegovic combined to score 12 points off the bench.

The Johnnies put themselves into a hole in the first four minutes of the game as they failed to defend the perimeter, letting Lindsey score eight of the Friars first 13 points. The home team was already down 13-6 at the under 16 media timeout and it became a struggle from there on out. The Johnnies weren't even putting a hand up on the perimeter (the Friars hit eight first half threes), struggled to stop the Friars effective ball movement (13 assists on 18 first half field goals) and were out-toughed on the glass in the first half.

The Red Storm also had no rhythm when they had the ball in the first 20 minutes, shooting just 38 percent from the field and 33 percent from downtown. They turned it over 12 times and just looked disinterested in the final five minutes.

Dunn didn't score his first points until there was 27 seconds remaining in the first frame (he only took two shots), but Lindsey had a career high 20 before the Friars went into the locker room with a 23-point lead. Bentil also looked unstoppable as he used his physical frame to plow through the Johnnies interior defense and knocked down open shots from mid-range.

At the start of the second half, Christian Jones - who scored six of the Johnnies first eight points - and the Red Storm looked to make a push to make things competitive. But Dunn, 13 points and 11 assists, threw home a monster slam with 15:28 remaining to put the Friars up 23.

St. John's actually picked up momentum after an And-1 from Ellison that cut the deficit down to 16. Then the Red Storm press forced a Friars turnover before Mussini knocked down a foul line jumper, putting Chris Mullin's unit 13 points away from a tie game.

Quick fouls called by the refs killed the team's momentum and Dunn and company pulled away from there.

St. John's shot 48 overall percent from the field, 33 percent from downtown and 47 percent from the free throw strike.

Next up, the Red Storm (8-23, 1-17) will play in the first round of the Big East Tournament at 9:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday night. As the 10th seed in the tournament, the Johnnies will play the seventh seed, which would currently be the Marquette Golden Eagles, and look to play spoiler.

"We have enough good performances to let us know that we can hang in a game and give ourselves a chance to win," Chris Mullin said. "Again it's getting back to the fundamentals - defense, rebounding, turnovers. If you look at the stats and the film, the team that wins does well with the fundamentals of the game."