This St. John’s basketball team is a coin with two very different sides. One side came up last weekend when all its potential bubbled up and carried it to an upset of Syracuse. The other came up Friday night when the Red Storm’s youth and inconsistency paved the way to a surprising 73-51 loss to Incarnate Word before 4,120 at Carnesecca Arena.
That’s following a fairly high peak with a pretty low valley: Incarnate Word was coming off a loss to Our Lady of the Lake out of the NAIA.
“We’re not where we thought we were,” St. John’s senior Durand Johnson said.
St. John’s (7-4) wasn’t effective on either end. When the Red Storm had the ball, it was passive and turnover-prone. On defense, St. John’s didn’t get to the Cardinals’ array of outside shooters, who shot 11-for-24 from three-point range. “What I watched was kind of quicksand offensively and defensively,’’ St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said, “and they made us pay.”
St. John’s gave up a 12-0 run late in the first half and trailed 35-26 at the break. Despite getting into the bonus with 13 minutes left in the second half, the Red Storm never got closer than seven points and trailed by double-digits for all of the final 11:24.
“I thought we’d have been more aggressive,” Johnson said of getting to the free-throw line.
“Bottom line: they wanted it more than us,” he added. “They beat us at every aspect of the game — loose balls, rebounds, they made shots, you name it.”
The Storm had hoped for some good news from the NCAA on Friday as it evaluates the eligibility of point guard Marcus LoVett, who shapes up as a difference-maker on offense because of his ballhandling skills and scoring ability. It got no news at all, and turnovers continued to be a problem with 15 that led to 19 Cardinal points.
Johnson had 15 points and Yankuba Sima had 11 points and four blocked shots for St. John’s.
Derail Green, who had four three-pointers coming into the game, was 5-for-6 from outside the arc en route to 24 points for Incarnate Word. Jontrell Walker added 20.
Mullin wants the better side of the coin to come up more often in the days ahead and hopes this loss carries a lesson.
“These experiences are what really get their attention more than coaches telling them stories or plays or things like that,” he said. “We performed horribly and we’ve got to move on.”
Storm watch. Bashir Ahmed, a 6-6 sophomore at Hutchinson (Kansas) CC, attended the game. Considered one of the nation’s top junior college recruits, the Bronx product is considering St. John’s. Cincinnati, Oregon and Texas are among his other suitors.