The St. John’s men’s basketball team whittled its deficit down to two on a pair of occasions in the final two minutes, but the Johnnies were unable to close the gap, falling to Providence, 63-58, on Wednesday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
With the loss, the Red Storm fell to 12-6 with a 1-4 record in BIG EAST play. Providence improved to 4-1 in conference action and 11-7 overall.
LJ Figueroa scored a team-high 12 points and narrowly missed a double-double with nine boards, five steals and two blocks. The junior wing made just two of his 13 attempts from three-point range. As a team, the Red Storm went 6-of-24 from beyond the arc.
Figueroa led four Johnnies in double figures on the evening. Rasheem Dunn tallied 11 points and six boards while Greg Williams Jr. and Marcellus Earlington chipped in 10 apiece. Williams Jr. shot 4-of-7 from the floor while Earlington went 5-for-8.
St. John’s recorded 11 steals, marking the team’s fifth straight game with double-digit thefts, the longest such streak in the NCAA. Coming into the game, the Johnnies ranked fourth in Division I with 10.6 steals per game.
Providence outscored the Red Storm at the free throw line by a 17-8 margin and outrebounded the Johnnies, 46-34.
After St. John’s forced three turnovers on the Friars’ first five possessions, Providence settled down and used an 8-0 run to take a 12-7 lead at the game’s second media timeout. All but two of those 12 Providence points came off St. John’s turnovers.
From there, the Johnnies began to hit from deep, using a trio of triples to retake the lead, 18-16, with just under eight minutes to play in the half. Two of those long balls came off the hands of Williams Jr., while Figueroa sank the other.
The Friars outscored the Johnnies, 15-5, over the next six minutes, taking their largest lead of the game, 31-23, with two minutes to go. The Red Storm, however, managed to keep Providence off the board for the rest of the half, cutting the deficit to five after 20 minutes of action.
Trailing by seven, 35-28, with just over two minutes gone in the second half, the Johnnies embarked on an 11-1 run over the next four and a half minutes. Mustapha Heron sparked the spurt with a four-point play before Figueroa added another 3-pointer and Dunn and Earlington chipped in buckets. Providence committed five turnovers during the St. John’s push.
Leading 39-36 with 13:25 to play, St. John’s saw the Friars come out of a timeout and rattle off eight straight points, moving back ahead by five, 44-39, just over a minute later.
After Providence climbed ahead by as many as seven, 55-48, with 6:18 to go, St. John’s continued to fight. The Johnnies pulled within two on a pair of occasions in the final two minutes, but Providence got a clutch triple from Luwane Pipkins and came up with a stop on the Red Storm’s final possession to hold on for the victory.
St. John’s returns to action on Saturday, playing host to No. 18/18 Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden. The game will honor the memory of the late Howard Garfinkel, a titan in the college basketball community who passed away in 2016. Tickets for the game are available at RedStormTix.com.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“This game came down to rebounding, toughness and at the free throw line. … Even as [the game] unfolded I thought we did a pretty good job of just kind of hanging around in the first half and even in the second half. We had missed opportunities to take advantage of the momentum as we made runs back at Providence. Give [Providence] credit, they made some plays. It just came down to that play with five seconds left to go on the clock and [Luwane Pipkins] makes a tough shot. He’s an older kid and he made a play, but you look at the free throw line and the rebounding, that was the difference in the game.”
On what the team was trying to do coming out of a timeout with 10 seconds remaining…
“We were actually trying to attack the basket and then have somebody spot up. It probably could’ve been a foul. It could have been an and one. Who knows? We wanted to get an attack, knowing that the defense would kind of sink in. 10 seconds is a lot of time, but we didn’t get neither. We didn’t get the call and [then we] put them on the free throw line. There you have it.”
On the bench play…
“[Marcellus Earlington] and some guys off the bench give us big minutes. In the first half, I thought that Greg Williams was a guy that was carrying us a little bit. It wasn’t a game of beauty. Neither team shot well, but that’s what happens in conference play. … I thought we had some guys on offense give us some good minutes. [Julian Champagnie] did some good things for us. … Providence did what they were supposed to do, they protected their home court. Kudos to them and congratulations to them. At the end of the day, it was one of those games that we’re going to look back on film and there were a lot of things we could have done a much, much better job.”
On if Providence’s 2-3 zone affected the offense…
“I thought at times it did, but I thought at times we kind of settled. We did a good job moving and attacking the basketball to the baseline. We had some layups down there. But when you go on the road, you have to shoot the ball, you got to put it in the hole. We had some shots that we normally make and we didn’t get the extra opportunities like they did. That’s why I said, you look at the free throw line, they made them. They shot 70% from the free throw line. 17 free throws and we made eight. Do the math. I thought we were careless with the basketball, turning the ball over. We pride ourselves on taking care of the basketball and I thought we had some bad turnovers.”
On if Providence’s defense slowed down the offense…
“We turned the ball over. We came out in attack mode and I thought we turned the ball over. Then obviously we weren’t hitting shots. … In conference play, teams are a little more familiar with one another. We just want to find a way to be our best. That’s the bottom line. I thought our tempo at times was to our liking, but then again I thought the free throw line and our rebounding was a big in determining this game.”
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