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St. John’s falls to the Vermont Catamounts, 70-68, despite late rally

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The offense struggled, but glass half-full: late grit gave the Johnnies a chance

A second-half spurt by Anthony Lamb powered the Vermont Catamounts to victory, and gave the St. John’s Red Storm their first loss tonight at Carnesecca Arena, by the score of 70-68.

St. John’s falls to 3-1.

St. John’s looks to get back to their winning ways against the Columbia Lions on Wednesday at 7:00 PM in Carnesecca Arena.

The game started inauspiciously, though the Red Storm came out with the intent to move the ball and get quality looks both in the paint and from beyond the arc. By and large, the Red Storm did just that, but the shots were not falling early. The looks were generally open and off a quality pass, but the Johnnies shot only 30% from the floor in the first half against a stout and experienced Vermont defense.

Still, It was a gritty first half for the Red Storm.

The pressure defense Coach Mike Anderson is known for kept it close early for St. John’s. Vermont shot the ball about as poorly as the Johnnies, shooting 27% from the floor in the half. The key difference, however, was that the Catamounts shot 25% (4/16) from deep, while St. John’s converted a marginally worse 20% of their threes (2/10).

Josh Roberts was the goal-line defense that allowed every player on the perimeter to defend aggressively. Roberts’s help-side defense deterred Vermont’s efforts to get into the paint successfully. Roberts grabbed eight rebounds, rejected a shot, and picked up a steal to anchor the defense — along with six points.

Thanks to a late spurt by Marcellus Earlington — who had two steals, three points and three rebounds in the final five minutes of the half — St. John’s went into the half up 31-26.

Like the first half, the Red Storm struggled to score early in the second half. St. John’s was not able to make a field goal for the first five minutes of the half, but unlike the first half, five careless turnovers and a handful of ill-advised shots led to Johnnies offensive woes.

Vermont quickly took the lead, but St. John’s found a way to keep it close. Rasheem Dunn’s shot wasn’t always there, but his quickness helped, as he drew six free throw attempts, second only to Mustapha Heron’s 10 attempts on the afternoon.

But Anthony Lamb is a legitimate star for the Catamounts, and he showed up in the second half.

After being bottled up for four points on 2/9 shooting, Lamb was able to get cooking, especially in the middle of the half where he powered a decisive 7-0 run. Lamb poured in 19 points in the half and 15 of his second half points came in the first ten minutes of the half.

To make matters worse, Vermont got back on defense consistently, eliminating easy run outs, and transitioned into a zone; the Red Storm pressure did not create the chaos it had against the first three opponents.

St. John’s was down 10 points with 6:41 left, and down five with under a minute left.

But late, a missed free throw by Vermont’s Stef Smith with the Johnnies down four gave the Red Storm a chance. Mustapha Heron had had a tough night, but made a three from the top of the key to get the Red Storm within one.

After two made free throws from Vermont, Rasheem Dunn lined up a three from the top of the arc to tie the game at 68 with 19 seconds left. With the crowd on their feet including the significant section of Vermont fans), Vermont took the ball out to set up Anthony Lamb on the left wing.

Facing Mustapha Heron, he dribbled into the paint to his right, and calmly drained the game winning jumper with 1.9 seconds left.

The Red Storm had a chance for one more shot, but on the inbound, LJ Figueroa stepped on the endline, while harassed by Everett Duncan.

St. John’s Red Storm

LJ Figueroa (double-double): 14 points (4/13 FG, 3/7 3PT), 10 rebounds, 3 turnovers

Mustapha Heron: 14 points (3/11 FG, 1/2 3PT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers

Josh Roberts: 8 points (3/5 FG), 13 rebounds, 1 turnover

Vermont Catamounts

Anthony Lamb: 23 points (10/26 FG, 1/5 3PT), 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers

Stef Smith: 17 points (7/13 FG, 1/5 3PT), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers

Everett Duncan: 17 points (6/14, 3/10 3PT), 3 Rebounds