The blowout wasn’t the only unusual thing to happen for the Red Storm on the night, in fact, when a 19-point lead was quickly cut down to 10 points with just under five minutes to go, the calm, cool (times two), and collected Steve Lavin looked a little bit like a more flamboyant coach like say a Bobby Knight or Frank Martin.
For the first time this season, coach Lavin’s “they’re young, leave room for mistakes and growing pains” philosophy flew out the window with the Johnnies big lead, as the third-year Red Storm coach laid into his guys for letting up in a game that was all but finished before the second half was underway.
“I wasn’t pleased with stretches where we lost our focus and concentration,” said Lavin, referring to that timeout just under the five-minute mark where his displeasure was clear to just about the entire Queens crowd. “We lost the concentration we need to put good teams away. But we recaptured the focus and salted the win away. With our schedule stepping up we can’t have those lapses or teams will go on runs and that will make it less likely that we will do something special in March.”
After winning 5-straight conference games to end the month of January, the Red Storm lost 3 of their 4 February contests before Wednesday nights win, a game they absolutely needed with 3 of their final 4 games of the regular season coming against top 25 opponents.
The win over South Florida propelled St. John’s to 8-6 in the Big East, which ties them for seventh place in the conference with Villanova, and their opponent on Sunday, No. 20 Pittsburgh. With such tough competition on the horizon, it’s important that the Johnnies win the winnable games, and it was also important for them to win in Lavin’s first game back on the bench since his father passed away early last week.
“We had to finish the game and we did that,” said sophomore D’Angelo Harrison, who contributed 18 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. “(Lavin) was frustrated we stepped off the gas and I’d be frustrated too. He got on us and kept us in the game.”
If the Red Storm have any aspirations of playing in the NCAA tournament, they better keep their feet on that gas pedal.