St. John’s seemed to be cruising to their seventh win in eight games on Saturday as they led UNC Asheville, at home, by 15 points in the second half. So then how did they end up on the odd end of a 72-65 contest?
“If you look at our games, we were up nine on Baylor, up 13 on Murray State and up 17 tonight, so if we sustain, we’d probably be 11-1 and ranked 15th in the country tonight,” said head coach Steve Lavin after the disappointing loss. “We’d be the same group of players, with the same flaws and deficiencies as the team that’s 8-4.”
It was very much a tale of two halves. After shooting 49 percent from the field in the first half, St. John’s was a lackluster 8-for-22 in the second half. Finding themselves on the wrong end of a miserable 23-4 run, the Red Storm put together a 7-0 run to tie the game at about the tw0-minute mark. The rest of the game was all Asheville, literally, as they answered with a 7-0 run of their own to finish off the upset.
As Lavin alluded to, this isn’t the first game the Red Storm blew in the second half, which has become a major problem. The young team is still figuring out its rotation (sophomores Sir’Dominic Pointer and Amir Garrett combined for just 40 minutes Saturday), but that doesn’t fully explain their lack of consistency.
“School is in session every day with this group. I came into the year knowing this. I didn’t have any illusions of this being anything other than a really challenging season,” said Lavin, who did have some things to feel good about coming off of the loss. D’Angelo Harrison led the team with 24 points, his 9th 20-point effort in 12 games, while the teams fiercest shot-blocker, freshman Chris Obekpa, continued his tear with 6 blocks. Then there was the two-time defending Big East Rookie of the Week, JaKarr Sampson, who put up 17 points and blocked 4 shots in the losing effort.
Despite the disappointment in blowing a big second half lead, this is the same team that overcame late deficits against teams like Holy Cross and Detroit earlier in the season. Every game is learning experience for this St. John’s team, and hopefully for Lavin, this was a lesson that won’t have to be learned again.
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