The St. John’s men’s basketball team erased a 10-point deficit to tie the game in the final minute of play, but Vermont’s Anthony Lamb sank a game-winning jumper with two seconds to go as the Catamounts topped the Johnnies, 70-68, at Carnesecca Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Trailing by nine with 3:19 to play in the second half, St. John’s used a 13-4 run to tie the game at 68 on a Rasheem Dunn three with 19 seconds on the clock. Lamb, the reigning America East Player of Year and a Wooden Award Watch List selection, then nailed a 15-footer with two seconds remaining to give Vermont the victory.
Vermont, the defending America East Champions who won 27 games a year ago, improved to 4-0 while the Johnnies fell to 3-1. Lamb finished with 23 points on 10-of-26 shooting and grabbed 13 boards for his third double-double in four tries this season.
LJ Figueroa led the way for St. John’s once again, tallying 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the year. The junior, who drained three of his seven three-point attempts on the day, led the Johnnies with six double-doubles a season ago.
Sophomore forward Josh Roberts pulled down a career-high 13 boards and narrowly missed a double-double with eight points. Seven of Roberts’ 13 rebounds came on the offensive glass.
Mustapha Heron scored eight of his 14 points in the final three minutes during the Red Storm’s charge. Seven of his 14 points came from the foul line, as the senior guard went just 3-for-11 from the floor.
Dunn reached double figures in his first game as a member of the Red Storm, finishing with 13 points and two assists. The Brooklyn native received a legislative relief waiver from the NCAA on Wednesday to become immediately eligible after transferring from Cleveland State.
Marcellus Earlington logged eight points, seven rebounds and three steals in 20 minutes of action. Six of his eight points came during the opening stanza.
The loss marked the first for St. John’s in non-conference play at Carnesecca Arena since Nov. 29, 2016, and snapped a 17-game unbeaten streak against non-league foes in Queens.
St. John’s shot a season-low 34.5 percent from the field and made just five of their 19 attempts from downtown. The Johnnies were 3-for-17 from deep before Heron and Dunn made their clutch triples in the closing seconds. The Red Storm also struggled from the stripe, going 23-for-35.
Neither team found the bottom of the basket with much regularity during the opening few minutes of the contest, as the Johnnies made just four of their first 22 shot attempts on the afternoon.
Trailing by as many as seven, 19-12, with 6:43 to play following 3-pointer from Everett Duncan, the Johnnies pulled within one, 21-20, and had a chance to take the lead before Earlington’s shot was blocked and led to an easy fast-break bucket for the Catamounts. Everett Duncan then added another triple, putting Vermont back ahead by six with 2:12 to go in the half.
Over the final two minutes of the period, the Red Storm turned the tables, outscoring the Catamounts, 11-0, and taking a 31-26 lead into the locker room. Earlington provided the spark for St. John’s during that stretch, making a number of inspired plays on the offensive and defensive end. The sophomore registered three points, two boards, a steal and an assist on the tear. Dunn capped the half with his first field goal as a Johnnie, a foul-line jumper to put the Red Storm ahead by five with time expiring.
Vermont started the second half on a 9-1 run, taking advantage of five St. John’s turnovers in the opening five minutes of action to move head by three, 35-32.
The Catamounts extended the run as high as 17-5, moving ahead by seven, 43-36, on a Lamb 3-pointer with seven minutes gone in the half. St. John’s trimmed the deficit down to one twice during the next four minutes of game action, but Vermont responded with an 11-2 spurt to take its largest lead of the game, 56-46, with 6:41 to go.
Trailing by nine, 64-55, with 3:19 to play, Heron kick started the run with a pair of free throws before a Roberts dunk brought the Johnnies within five, 64-59, with 2:17 remaining. Lamb temporarily stopped the bleeding with a layup at the 1:34 mark, but six straight points from Heron brought the Johnnies within one, 66-65, following a three-ball with 29 seconds to go.
Everett Duncan made two free throws to push the lead back to three on the ensuing possession before Dunn drilled a triple from the top of the key to even the score at 68 apiece with 19 seconds to go.
After the Johnnies nearly forced a five-second violation on a Vermont inbound with 10 seconds to play, Lamb hit the game-sealing shot with two ticks left on the clock and handed the Johnnies their first loss of the season.
The Red Storm will look to right the ship on Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena, playing host to Columbia at 7 p.m. on FS1 and 970 AM WNYM.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“Give credit to Vermont. I thought they played outstanding. I thought they made all the big plays going down the stretch so congratulations to them. With a guy like [Anthony] Lamb with 10 seconds to go, he’s capable of making a big play and that’s what players do.”
On his team’s performance…
“I thought our guys gave their effort. I thought we shot ourselves in the foot between the free throw line and turning the basketball over. You can’t do that. If you look at it, we missed 12 free throws and we had the guys who we want on the free throw line. We turned the ball over 10 times in the second half and we lose by two. These are some errors that we have to clean up. I thought the game was played at their pace.
“We have to come out and we have to get better. We have to take care of the basketball and we obviously have to take care of our home court. We didn’t get the job done and that falls on me.”
On the performance from his bench…
“Marcellus [Earlington] continued to give us a big lift off the bench. David [Caraher], for the limit minutes he played, I thought he gave us some good energy. Rasheem [Dunn], it was his first game, but you can see that he brings another element. Now we have to get the other guys to all get on the same page. Again, it was a hard fought game. It wasn’t a classic, but at the end of the day, there’s a winner and a loser and we came on the wrong side today.”
On Rasheem Dunn…
“He brings readiness to the game for us. He’s a guy that can create for us. To play for a new coach, new style, his first game, he came out and gave us everything.”
On making adjustments…
“We’ll use this as a learning experience for this team. I always say, each game is going to be a test for this basketball team, because you have so many different parts and we just added another part [in Rasheem Dunn]. They’ve got to learn how to go out and function as a team and find a way to win.”
St. John’s Guard/Forward LJ Figueroa
On what went wrong the second half…
“We weren’t taking care of the ball. We weren’t executing. They played well, they stayed poised. You could tell they were experienced playing together. They have great players, a great coach. We just tried to stay poised, but it didn’t end up in our favor tonight.”
On how this game will help the team moving forward…
“It’s definitely going to help us moving forward. First loss we had all year with Coach Anderson, so it’s definitely going to help us. It’s only going to get us better. We believe we’re a stronger team. We have great chemistry. It was a tough loss tonight, but we’re going to come back tomorrow ready to work.”
St. John’s Guard Rasheem Dunn
On what it meant to play in his first game…
“It was a wonderful day. First time playing this year and just having that game, getting my feel back, getting my groove back. Last but not least, being on the court with the team I work hard with all year and every day this summer. We go to practice, play hard, play together, play smart.”
On if taking the three to tie the game was part of the plan…
“It actually wasn’t the plan coming out, but I saw the clock was winding down and we didn’t have much time, so I was just like, ‘let me get a screen and get the big man by himself and put up the shot’ and it went in.”
On his comfort level playing in his first game of the season….
“I felt like I showed up too late for my team and things like that happen when you don’t play for a year. … We were down 10 with under [seven minutes] and we did what we could do to get a W, but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. Like LJ said, they’re a great team and have a great coach.”
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