The shorthanded Red Storm dug deep to walk away with a win in this slug-fest on St. John’s Senior Night, 75-68, over the Butler Bulldogs.
With Shamorie Ponds out with an abdominal injury, Amar Alibegovic joined fellow senior Bashir Ahmed in the final for their final game in Carnesecca Arena — logging heavy minutes to get the Red Storm to 15-15 on the season and 4-13 in Big East play.
Offensively, the the quality looks for the Red Storm came and went in the first half. St. John’s went through spurts of offensive brilliance, like Bashir Ahmed’s early looks from three or Marvin Clark’s back-to-back baskets halfway through the first half. Otherwise, St. John’s offense struggled to create quality shots and gave up nine turnovers.
Defensively, St. John’s came out in the first half showing intensity that frustrated the Butler offense forcing Butler into eight first half turnovers.
Going into the half, Ahmed lead the Red Storm with 11 points off of 4-8 from the field and 3-3 from three.
Butler’s Kelan Martin led the Bulldogs with 10 points of his own off 4-10 from the floor and 1-4 from three.
Coming out of halftime, the Red Storm came out making paint scoring a priority and created a lead as large as 12 points.
The offensive woes continued for St. John’s in the second half, going stretches without points. One stretch lasted up to six minutes without the Red Storm contributing to the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Butler’s Paul Jorgensen — from nearby New City, NY, went off for a stretch, bringing the Bulldogs back from a 12-point deficit.
With 2:15 remaining, Butler’s Martin a three, giving the Bulldogs a four-point lead. A foul on Ahmed sent him to the line bringing the Butler lead down to two.
As the band played Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the St. John’s faithful continued to hope this thriller ended with a Red Storm victory, because at the end of the second half, Simon layed the ball in to send the game into overtime.
St. John’s went into overtime ready to reward the faith of every person in Carnesecca. But the first OT did not have the ending the home fans hoped.
With 1:45 remaining in overtime, center Nate Fowler hit a three to bring the Red Storm lead down to only three. After a St. John’s miss, Alibegovic fouled Baldwin on a three pointer. First free throw bounces front rim, back rim, in.
Second free throw bounces front rim, back rim, in.
Final free throw goes in. Tie ball game again, 64-64.
Out of a Butler timeout, Butler’s Martin missed a contested jumper, leaving 8.4 seconds for St. John’s to call what they wanted. Simon missed an elbow jumper, and everyone prepared for a second overtime.
But they did not prepare for Justin Simon, who wanted to finish the game before midnight. His five points, steal, energy and composure at the free throw line sealed the game.
Late in the second OT, after Clark blocked a shot, he finished at the other end to tie the game back up at 68.
With only one minute remaining, Simon laid the ball in, giving the Red Storm a two point lead to protect. Simon stole the ball, and headed to the line to seal the win. Both free throws go in, and the Red Storm lead 72-68 with under 30 seconds remaining sealing the victory.
Next for St. John’s is a matchup in Providence against the Friars on Saturday at noon.
St. John’s Red Storm
Bashir Ahmed: 22 Points (7-14 FG, 3-6 3PT), 6 Rebounds, 6 Turnovers
Justin Simon: 24 Points (9-16 FG, 0-1 3PT), 10 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 4 Steals, 6 Turnovers, 50 Minutes
Marvin Clark II: 20 Points (7-12 FG, 1-3 3PT), 4 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 3 Turnovers
Amar Alibegovic: 6 Rebounds, 2 Blocks, 2 Steals
Tariq Owens: 9 Points, 8 Rebounds, 3 Blocks, 6 Turnovers
Kelan Martin: 17 Points (7-23 FG, 2-9 3PT), 5 Rebounds, 1 Turnover
Paul Jorgensen: 17 Points (7-14 FG, 3-8 3PT), 5 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 3 Turnovers