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St. John’s Fumbles Away Another Halftime Lead, Falls at Marquette, 86-75

Soriano seemingly benched at halftime, otherwise a no-show with foul trouble in this one

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a double-digit first half lead, St. John’s struggles in the second half, Coac Rick Pitino benched of Joel Soriano and Daniss Jenkins (albeit in different capacities), and the Red Storm’s sturggles out of halftime lead to the loss of a must-win game at Marquette, 86-75.

The “bracketologists” called this one a must win for St. John’s. The Johnnies don’t really have a signature win, and certainly need to look good going into the Big East Tournament if they want to be in consideration for an at-large big. But when they needed to win most, struggles out of halftime reared their ugly head again.

When DePaul attempted 40 threes against DePaul, I suspect I wasn’t alone in thinking, “Whatever, It’s DePaul. We can’t take anything good from a game against DePaul.” St. John’s coming into the contest against Marquette average fewer than 20 threes a game, 9th in the Big East in threes attempted in conference.

However, the DePaul game may have been a tipping point for this St. John’s team. This seemingly new approach to offense by the Johnnies paired with Marquette’s defensive apparent gameplan of letting anyone except Joel Soriano and Daniss Jenkins score, played right into the Red Storm’s hand. The Red Storm attempted 18 threes in the half, and made 8 of them (44 3FG%).

Even better, Marquette’s efforts to stop Jenkins were not effective. Despite Jenkins being considerably less efficient. Jenkins did score 13 points (5-11 FG, 3-6 3PT). However, Jenkins was held to a true shooting percentage of just over 59% in the first half of this contest, as compared to the just over a 71% true shooting percentage he’s had over the previous three games.

The biggest beneficiary of St. John’s altered approach is Naheim Alleyne. Alleyne has largely been a non-factor in Big East play given that he’s a catch and shoot guy averaging fewer than 6 shot and less than 6 points a game. However, we saw signs of life with 5 shot attempt and 6 first half points from the fifth-year senior.

The Red Storm’s shooting powered the team to a 47-38 point halftime lead over Marquette, and the Johnnies had a lead as large at 15 during the half.

As St. John’s has done in seemingly every close big games, the team came out flat after halftime. The Johnnies’ once double-digit lead quickly dwindled to a deficit.

To make matters more curious, Coach Rick Pitino had Soriano on the bench to start the second half, and only had Soriano play 10 minutes in the first half. Soriano came in after the Johnnies fumbled away their lead, but was largely ineffective. The big finished the game with 2 points (1-4 FG) and 5 rebounds in only 17 minutes.

The Red Storm politely hung around for most of the half, staying within a bucket or two of Marquette. However, in the last four minutes, Marquette outscored St. John’s 11-2, and we have to wonder if this team has quit on the season.

In the final minute or so, Coach Pitino benched game-leading scorer Daniss Jenkins, but by that point, the game was out of reach for the Johnnies.

With Jenkins on the bench, St. John’s lost to Marquette, 86-75.

St. John’s Red Storm

Daniss Jenkins: 22 points (9-19 FG, 4-9 3FG), 6 rebounds, 6 assists

RJ Luis, Jr.: 13 points (6-11 FG, 1-4 3FG), 3 rebounds, 1 assist

Nahiem Alleyne: 12 points (4-9 FG, 4-7 3FG), 2 rebounds, 1 assist

Marquette Golden Eagles

Tyler Kolek: 27 points (11-17 FG, 5-8 3FG), 7 rebounds, 13 assists

Stevie Mitchell: 14 points (5-8 FG, 2-3 3FG), 1 rebound