St. John’s and Marquette went toe-to-toe in an energetic and often sloppy battle in the Big East quarterfinals, but at the end of the day, the top-seed Golden Eagles held onto a 72-70 victory in overtime.
St. John’s set the tone for the game early on, making it ugly and physical, which is exactly what it needed to do against Marquette. Red Storm head coach Mike Anderson said at halftime that the strategy was to put defensive pressure on Marquette guard Kam Jones, the team’s leading scorer, and force him to give up the ball or take bad shots.
In the first half, St. John’s executed to perfection as they raced out to a 36-26 halftime lead.
They took away Jones’ attack angles to the basket, forcing him to give up the ball early or shoot contested threes. Early on, Jones opted for the latter, shooting 1-of-9 from the field, including 1-of-8 from beyond the arc.
St. John’s controlled the glass early on, outrebounding Marquette 25-15 in the first half. The Red Storm grabbed 10 offensive rebounds alone, scoring nine second-chance points in the first half, which accounted for 25% of their entire first-half total.
They did all of that with star center Joel Soriano scoring just one point and grabbing three rebounds in the first half. Marquette sent double teams in the paint the second the Yonkers native touched the ball, even on his few rebounds.
In place of Soriano, reserve forward David Jones stepped up, pacing the Red Storm with 12 points, seven rebounds, and two assists in the first half. Fellow bench player Kolby King finished the first half with eight points on 3-of-3 shooting, including 2-of-2 from deep as the St. John’s bench piled in 20 first-half points to just nine for Marquette.
However, in just five minutes of second-half action, that large St. John’s lead was gone.
Marquette came out blazing, using a 12-0 lead to claw back into the game. They continued to force St. John’s into making bad turnovers but finally started to capitalize on the mistakes. In the first half, St. John’s turned the ball over 11 times but got lucky as Marquette scored only four points off of those turnovers. In the second half, St. John’s turned the ball over another 10 times with Marquette scoring 12 points off of those mistakes.
In addition to their poor ball security, the Red Storm offense went cold and the bench scoring that carried them in the first half vanished. Jones consistently forced contested shots and went 0-for-7 from the field in the second half, while King also missed his only shot as the Red Storm had zero points from their bench in the second half and overtime.
After Posh Alexander made a layup to give St. John’s a 36-23 lead with 1:15 to go in the first half, the team didn’t make another field goal until Joel Soriano got an offensive rebound and made a layup with 13:36 to go in the second half. That’s almost eight minutes of court time without a made field goal.
St. John’s would shoot just 7-of-29 from the field in the second half for 24.1% shooting. That poor shooting compared with 10 turnovers to just one assist in the second half allowed Marquette to get back into the driver’s seat.
The Golden Eagles were led by sophomore guard Tyler Kolek, who stepped up with Kam Jones taken out of the game by the St. John’s defense. The lefty scored 12 second-half points while grabbing six rebounds, and dishing out four assists. He would finish the game with 19 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and two steals.
Yet, despite Kolek’s success and the Red Storm’s poor shooting, Marquette continued to give St. John’s opportunities to steal a win.
With the Red Storm up 56-55, Marquette sophomore forward Oso Ighodoro had a mental lapse and passed the ball back across halfcourt for a backcourt violation. St. John’s we unable to capitalize as A.J. Storr missed a corner three and then Ighodoro made up for his earlier mistake on the next possession, grabbing an offensive rebound over Soriano to put Marquette up 57-56.
It was yet another point in the paint for Marquette, who dominated in that category, scoring 36 points in the paint to just 22 for St. John’s despite being outrebounded the entire game, including being outrebounded 20-11 on the offensive end.
After a Kam Jones three-pointer, just his third made basket of the game, gave Marquette a 60-56 lead, a game that was frenzied and chaotic throughout got even crazier.
Storr was fouled on a long three-point attempt and knocked down all three to cut the Marquette lead to one. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Kolek slipped and Ighodoro made another careless decision, throwing a full-court pass that was picked off by St. John’s.
Yet, despite having time to milk the clock for a good shot, David Jones tried to drive through two Marquette defenders, turning the ball over at the free throw line. It was yet another costly turnover for St. John’s, which had 21 on the day.
Coach Mike Anderson decided to use his final time out after the first free throw by Olivie Prospero. The controversial decision to “ice” the shooter paid off as Prospero missed the second free throw and Dylan Addae-Owusu drove around a clear-out screen by Soriano and laid the ball up to tie the game at 61 with just 4.6 seconds left. It was the Bronx native’s ninth point in the last four minutes, as he willed his team across the finish line, ending as the team’s leading scorer with 16 points to go along with five rebounds and two steals.
Kolek’s three-pointer at the buzzer fell short, pushing the game into overtime.
The overtime period was basically a battle between Kolek and St. John’s free throws. The Marquette guard had seven of the team’s 11 points in overtime, while St. John’s went 0-6 from the field in the extra period, using a 9-of-10 stretch from the charity stripe to keep the game close.
However, at the end of the day, St. John’s simply wasn’t able to make enough shots or, really, any shots. They missed a three-point shot with seven seconds left but got the ball back out of bounds and missed another three at the buzzer as Marquette survived yet another two-point game against the Red Storm.
“I feel like our defense didn’t come to play,” Soriano said. “Definitely a defensive team, so we need to feed off our defense. We got to be better man. Execute better. Move the ball, share the ball, play better defense overall. If We wanted to be the team that we wanted to be this year we had to play defense.”
St. John’s will now have to wait and hope that an NIT invitation comes their way in order to continue their season.