After starting the season 8-3, the St. John’s Red Storm have looked like a team experiencing serious growing pains over their last five games. Awful shooting, too many turnovers, too many bad offensive possessions, and flat-out losing basketball cost the Johnnie’s 4 of their last 5 games.
Head coach Steve Lavin expressed repeatedly that there were going to be a fair amount of ups and downs, and hasn’t expressed much disappointment in his teams short-comings over the past couple of weeks. Rightfully so, they redeemed themselves on Tuesday night.
St. John’s played one of their better games of the new calendar year as they upset the number-20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 67-63. On a night where leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison only scored 8 points (12 below his season average), it was impressive to see the Red Storm lead for a good portion of the game, but moreso how they made big plays down the stretch.
Sure, you could argue some of St. John’s success came with Notre Dame deciding to leave Jack Cooley on the bench during crunch time, but St. John’s still held the Irish scoreless for about the final 3 minutes of the game, and had the ability to hit big free throws when they needed them most.
The Red Storm went into the final minute of the game up 64-63, and squandered a chance to take a bigger lead by committing a shot-clock violation in a very stagnant St. John’s-esque manner at the 37-second mark. It seemed almost certain that the momentum of the game had shifted over to Notre Dame, until Harrison came up with a huge come from behind block with about 22 seconds to go, only to be overshadowed by Chris “Oblockpa” Obekpa, who swatted a Pat Connaughton layup out of bounds off of Connaughton to seal the deal with about 7 seconds remaining in the game.
Up to this point of the season, it seemed almost certain St. John’s didn’t have what it took to win late in games, and they disproved that tonight. A nice balance on scoring – although they still shot just 42-percent from the field – and good free-throw shooting were enough to combine with limited turnovers and their signature stingy defense to notch a big win over a ranked Big East opponent.
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