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St. John’s Lose Winnable Matchup with Creighton, 77-67

The top half of the Big East is trying to stay healthy, Red Storm struggling to find lightning to catch in a bottle

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s got Creighton to play at a fast pace, but the Red Storm couldn’t capitalize late against a fatigued Bluejays team and lost, 77-67.

Andre Curbelo was back on the bench for the Red Storm, albeit in street clothes. Rafael Pinzon was suspended indefinitely, presumably for an Instagram post criticizing coaching.

In the first half, the game didn’t get out of hand early, but Creighton systematically grew their lead over the first 20 minutes.

Creighton normally is middle of the road in terms of pace, ranking 129th in the country with just over 71 possession per game in contrast to St. John’s rank of 11th with 76 possession per game. While the Red Storm normally play at the faster pace, Creighton took St. John’s pace and shoved it right back in their face.

In addition to the pace, the Bluejays shot well from beyond the arc. Coming into this contest, St. John’s was the second worst team in the Big East in opposing three-point percentage allowing opposing Big East teams to shoot over 36% from deep. In the first half, Creighton was 8 of 19 from three. While St. John’s had 13 made field goals and Creighton had 14, the difference at the half was that only 1 of those field goals were from deep for the Johnnies while 8 of them for Creighton were from three.

The Johnnies trailed by as many 11 points with just over 4 minutes to play. A quality couple of minutes and a pair of alley-oops cut that deficit to 5, but a well-used timeout by Creighton’s Greg McDermott resulted in a 7-2 run rebuilding the lead to 10 points.

A bright spot for the Red Storm offense was the return to posting up Joel Soriano. In recent memory, the Johnnies have tried to highlight motion and cuts around Soriano to combat the perennial double-team Soriano would receive. The team probably over relied on those alternate avenues for offense, and for a couple games, Soriano hasn’t been a feature of this offense. In the first half, Soriano had a strong 8 points on 4 of 6 from the floor but only 1 rebound.

The minimal rebounding stat by Soriano is especially jarring given that the Red Storm lost the rebound battle 22-11, feeling like one of the worst rebounding games for St. John’s since the Chris Mullen coaching era. Seven of Creighton’s rebounds came on the offensive glass, which contributed to their 13 second chance points.

At the end of the half, St. John’s trailed Creighton, 42-32.

Early in the second half, the Bluejays went ice cold and the Red Storm went on a 11-0 run to take the lead. The St. John’s defense was better than it was in the first half, but it wasn’t so good as to force Creighton to miss 13 shots in a row.

Despite the incredible cold streak by Creighton, St. John’s could only regain a brief 1-point lead for 25 seconds with just under 12 minutes to play.

Creighton tonight, more than any other school the Red Storm has played since they were playing schools my mother couldn’t point out on a map, were fatigued playing at the Johnnies’ pace. It hurt that Creighton is so top heavy with their top five players, but the Bluejays looked collectively slow to get up, hesitant to initiate contact, and shooting with tired legs.

Creighton’s Arthur Kaluma hit 3 threes to create a 9-0 run by himself, to effectively put the Johnnies to bed late.

Despite the 40 minutes of hell stylistically looking the best it has in a long time, St. John’s didn’t have the top tier talent to capitalize on the Bluejays’ collective fatigue and dropped their last game of the season at Carnesecca Arena, 77-67.

St. John’s Red Storm

Joel Soriano: 15 points (7-13 FG), 8 rebounds

David Jones: 14 points (5-12 FG, 1-3 3PT), 3 rebounds, 1 assist

AJ Storr: 9 points (4-10 FG, 0-1 3PT), 4 rebounds, 1 assist

Creighton Bluejays

Ryan Nembhard: 16 points (4-10 FG, 2-4 3PT), 4 rebounds, 5 assists

Arthur Kaluma: 13 points (5-11 FG, 3-6 3PT), 6 rebounds, 5 assists