St. John's traveled to Virginia, hoping to do something special in the NIT and learn how to win tough knockout games in a tournament with an eye toward next year.
St. John's made some runs throughout the game, many off of sloppy Virginia passing and ball handling miscues that gave the Storm a chance to rage back. But a lack of scoring punch, porous interior defense, and a lack of poise deep-sixed any comeback at a raucous John Paul Jones Arena crowd, and lost, 68 to 50 in the second round of the 2013 NIT.
Freshman Justin Anderson scored a career-high 18 points to lead the Cavaliers. The Cavs continue in the NIT, hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday night.
St. John's ends the season at 17-16, with sad memories of what might have been in games against Providence and Marquette, and a late season discipline issues with guard D`Angelo Harrison.
It seemed like the Red Storm might have the solution to the slow-paced Cavaliers, forcing them into long jump shots, cavalier passes, and making paint touches difficult early. Star Joe Harris (7 points) didn't score until late in the first half, and the Red Storm looked competitive... until after a Phil Greene dunk and a UVA timeout.
A trio of Virginia freshmen sparked the offense while the Storm struggled to move the ball around without turning it over.
A 20-3 first half run gave the ACC team a lead, with freshmen guards Taylor Barnette (a career-high 13 points) and Teven Jones (5 points) hitting threes to spark the "Wahoos". The Storm scored three points until an Amir Garrett five-point flurry with five minutes left brought them back to life.
The Johnnies didn't have enough in the tank to make a comeback, despite 14 second-half points from Phil Greene IV (18 points overall). St. John's came as close as 7 points in the second half.
Today, St. John's struggled not just with their shooting, but with an uncharacteristic eight first half turnovers - and couldn't squeeze minutes out of JaKarr Sampson (14 points, 7 rebounds) and Sir`Dominic Pointer (4 points, 5 steals), both who ended the first half with three fouls each.
Turnovers - 14 in all for the Storm - gave a chance for Virginia to get out in transition and score in the paint; the Johnnies, who average seven blocks per game, finished with two blocks and allowed 66% shooting inside the arc, and 34 points in the paint.
Poise was lacking; with three fouls, Pointer fouled a streaking Virginia player 30 seconds into the second half. Sampson followed a bit later with a tussle with Teven Jones. Chris Obekpa (4 points, 10 rebounds) was goaded into two altercations, one when Virginia forward Akil Mitchell (11 points, 9 rebounds) bumped into him on the sideline and once when Justin Anderson bumped him near the bench. It was almost like they decided on the bench to try and get St. John's heads' out of the game.
The crowd was raucous, heckling players and Steve Lavin alike, the referees called a number of fouls that St. John's players' are unused to seeing draw whistles, and UVA remained in control despite late efforts by Greene.
St. John's shot 19/46 inside the arc (41%) and 2/16 from outside the arc (13%); Virginia hit 19/29 inside the arc, 5/15 from outside (33%) and drew 24 foul shots. St. John's struggled to find players who could put points on the board, despite grabbing 15 offensive rebounds; the UVA interior defense was tight and responsive to all drives.
A season of promise ends for the Red Storm in the vicinity of where pundits said it might - with an NIT berth, around 8 conference wins, and with a young core gaining experience.
But for the fans, there are questions about this team's ability to respond to tough situations and where they will find points with or without the suspended D`Angelo Harrison. The Rumble will be recapping the season in a week or two.