In the early stages of tonight’s game, Madison Square Garden was buzzing like it rarely has for a St. John’s game this century. A year ago, this would have been a glorified neutral-site game. This year, there was a deep sea of St. John’s red making plenty of noise for every play. On the court, though, the Red Storm fizzled out and failed to reciprocate the electricity in the building by falling to Michigan, 89-73, in a result that showed that the lights were too bright for them.
“We couldn’t match the Garden, we couldn’t match the fans, and, most importantly, we couldn’t match Michigan,” said Rick Pitino in his post-game press conference.
The game started with an explosive track meet between two teams you would otherwise assume would flex their defensive muscles. Michigan led 20-18 at the 16-minute media timeout, which was pushed to 12:25 remaining in the first half from the lack of stoppages. Nimari Burnett set a new career-high of 21 points (on a perfect 7-for-7) in the first half alone.
Soriano, Dingle, and Jenkins combined for 25 points in the first half, but it wasn’t enough to match Michigan’s breakneck tempo. The Wolverines maintained their edge throughout the first half, then burst into halftime with a 11-3 run to enter the break with a 48-38 lead. St. John’s posed little resistance, as busted rotations and poor transition defense gave way to Michigan shooting 51 percent from the field and 42 percent from three at the halftime break.
For fans expecting a strong response out of the halftime break, they were bitterly disappointed. Michigan went on a 12-5 run to open the half, taking advantage of leaky rim protection and four turnovers. Dug McDaniel gashed the Johnnies to the tune of 26 points and 7 assists, scoring 16 of those points in the second half alone.
Michigan proceeded to impose their will, jumping out to a 26-point lead with 8:22 to go in the second half. The Red Storm pulled their starters soon after as the game was well out of doubt.
The free-flowing and selfless team from the Stony Brook game turned into an isolation-heavy monstrosity in the second half. The Red Storm only had three more field goals made (12) than they had turnovers (9) in the entire half. They managed to collect 16 offensive rebounds, but they only scored the same amount of second chance points. The most impressive performance for anyone wearing red and white may have come from the St. John’s fans who managed to stick around throughout the bludgeoning.
“I knew this team would give us a lot of trouble. I just didn’t expect the reaction of some of our players offensively,” remarked Pitino, “It surprised me, because I haven’t seen that in practice at all.”
The one silver lining of the night may have come from Joel Soriano, who was introduced as “El Capitan” in pregame introductions. He scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and picked up 9 rebounds on an overall grotesque night for the Red Storm.
Next game: Thursday, November 16th vs North Texas (2-0)
The Red Storm have a very quick turnaround to sort their issues out when they face a gritty and defensively stout North Texas team in the first round of the Charleston Classic tournament. The Mean Green are currently 2-0 after home wins over Northern Iowa and Omaha.