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St. John’s Chokes Away Another Lead, Loses at Butler 68-66

This team has turned heartbreaking losses into an art

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s gives away another lead and has the yips at the rim late in their loss to Butler, 68-66.

These two teams are nearly locked into playing each other in the 8-seed vs. 9-seed matchup in the Big East Tournament. All that’s left to determine is who’s wearing the white jerseys in that game. Fortunately, the Johnnies looked better than they have in recent games. Granted that’s not saying much given that in their last five games, they choked against Villanova and Seton Hall, got embarrassed by Creighton and Xavier, and won a one-possession game against Georgetown.

Tonight, the team played with a purpose. They defended with intensity, and did a considerably better job taking care of the ball. The Red Storm even broke out some set plays on offense.

Posh Alexander generally watched the plays unfold and settled for a contested midrange jumper instead of passing for an open look. But hey, his shot was falling, so it’s easier to overlook the decision-making in those situations. Posh had a good first half with 10 points (5-6 FG), 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. No steals for the junior guard, but he made Butler’s ballhandlers work for everything.

The person generally sacrificing the better shot opportunity for Posh’s contested jumpers was Rafael Pinzon, but don’t worry. Pinzon had a solid half of his own with 8 points (3-4 FG, 2-2 3PT). Like he has been all season, Pinzon was best in catch and shoot situations. Tonight, he touched the ball enough to where he didn’t have to force something without knowing if he’d get to touch the ball again.

At the break, St. John’s led Butler, 41-34.

The second half felt like a slow burn. The Red Storm did little in the way of expanding their lead with Butler regularly being just one bucket away from tying the game up. The clock constantly seemed like it wasn’t nearly close enough to the game being over.

For most of the second half, the scoring came from Posh and Pinzon. Posh added 7 points (3-5 FG, 0-1 3PT), 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, ending the game within sneezing distance of a triple-double, and Pinzon had 6 second half points (3-6 FG, 0-1 3PT).

With just over 2 minutes to play, Butler did what all St. John’s fans feared they would do — they tied up the game. The Red Storm would have to execute down the stretch to win.

After Butler pulled ahead, the Johnnies had several opportunities to tie the game back up. The best of those opportunities was Andre Curbelo’s uncontested look at the rim after briefly losing the ball immediately followed by a Joel Soriano uncontested look at the bucket. Both were clanged off the rim.

St. John’s was unable to score for nearly the final 4 minutes of the game while allowing Butler to finish the game on a 7-0 run.

With less than a second left, Soriano had a shot at both redemption and a chance to send this one to overtime. The shot went in, but the ball just stayed in Soriano’s hand a fraction of a second too long before the basket was waved off.

St. John’s missed opportunities ended up being too costly for the Red Storm, and the Johnnies lose their third straight game, this one to Butler 68-66.

St. John’s Red Storm

Posh Alexander: 17 points (8-11 FG, 0-1 3PT), 9 rebounds, 6 assists

Rafael Pinzon: 14 points (6-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), 1 rebound

Joel Soriano: 11 points (4-10 FG), 12 rebounds, 2 assists

Butler Bulldogs

Jayden Taylor: 19 points (6-12 FG, 1-5 3PT), 3 rebounds, 1 assist

Manny Bates: 15 points (6-11 FG), 6 rebounds, 4 assists