Much like in the close games last season, St. John's found themselves, despite mistakes and wild play, a few possessions away from a solid win.
This was so similar - but the outcome was different.
A 22 for 37 free throw shooting almost undid a strong defensive performance in the second half... but the length of the Red Storm and some clutch shots helped the Red Storm win, 70-61 to earn a spot in the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship.
St. John's faces the winner of Georgia vs Gonzaga on Friday.
D`Angelo Harrison, cold as a nor'easter in the first half, went 3/6 in the second half and added 13 points to the six he scored in the first half. He chipped in eight rebounds.
Rysheed Jordan scored 18 with eight rebounds. Sir`Dominic Pointer got the team and the crowd into the game with some second half blocks and a filthy dunk on Elliot Eliason to bring the Red Storm within two points. Chris Obekpa added 10 points and eight rebounds, plus four blocks.
In the first half, the Red Storm found Minnesota willing to play a fast and loose transition game, and that kept it close. But Mason scored eight points in a row around the nine minute mark, part of a tightening of the defense, half court play, and 13 points from Nate Mason in the half gave Minnesota the halftime lead.
Steve Lavin noted in the halftime interview that the Red Storm rushed their shots and were poor at being aware of shooters.
The shots didn't get better, but the effort did. The length of the Red Storm sped up the Gophers. Phil Greene IV steadied the team deep in the second half with solid ball handling and five straight points for St. John's to get them within a point of the Golden Gophers.
Rysheed Jordan tied the game with a free throw and D'Angelo Harrison gave the Johnnies a lead with a pair of free throws. And then, after scrambling to save a ball, Harrison spotted up in the corner, received a pass from Jordan, canned a three-pointer - and was fouled by Elliot Eliason for the four-point play.
Nate Mason led the Golden Gophers with 15 points, but only two in the second half. Minnesota's Carlos Morris added 11 points; Andre Hollins chipped in nine points.
St. John's held Minnesota to 0/8 shooting from beyond the arc in the second half and 0.53 points per possession in the frame. Minnesota had 11 turnovers in the half as well; St. John's matched that number.
St. John's made more free throws (15) than Minnesota attempted in the second half (10); St. John's, however, took 28 free throw attempts.
Harrison had five steals; Dom Pointer and Rysheed Jordan each had four steals apiece.
Dan Dakich, stuck on the out-of-control way D'Angelo Harrison played against Syracuse in the Dome two years ago, just before getting suspended for the year, said a lot of interesting things about Harrison's game and a supposed lack of passion.