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Historic Run Lifts St. John’s Past Georgetown, 75-62

The shots weren’t falling, the Hoyas couldn’t seem to miss and the Johnnies trailed by as many as 15 in the second half. All signs pointed towards an early BIG EAST Tournament exit for St. John’s.

Somebody forgot to tell Marcellus Earlington.

The sophomore forward scored 10 consecutive points on a 23-0 St. John’s run to end the game, as the Johnnies erased a 10-point deficit in the final 6:30 to defeat Georgetown, 75-63, on Wednesday night in front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd.

Earlington registered the second double-double of his St. John’s career, finishing the contest with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He scored 17 of his 19 points after halftime, going 6-of-9 from the floor and a perfect 3-for-3 from three in the latter stanza.

The Red Storm’s 15-point comeback marked the largest for St. John’s in the 41-year history of the BIG EAST Tournament. The Johnnies sank six of their final eight field goal attempts during the game-ending run.

LJ Figueroa netted a game-high 22 points, 11 in each period. The junior from Lawrence, Mass., was more efficient in the second half, shooting 4-for-7 from the floor and 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Rasheem Dunn, who played a team-high 36 minutes, finished with nine points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.

The Johnnies forced 21 turnovers and matched a season-high with 16 steals on the night.

St. John’s has now won a game in the BIG EAST Tournament in each of the past four seasons and has earned a date with top-seeded Creighton tomorrow at 12 p.m. on FS1.

Following a back-and-forth start to the contest, the Red Storm ripped off an 8-0 run to take a 24-17 lead with 10:53 to go. Figueroa capped the spurt with a triple, the only make of the Red Storm’s first 11 tries from deep.

From there, Georgetown scored 21 of the game’s next 25 points, moving ahead by as many as 10, 38-28, with 3:22 remaining in the half.

David Caraher scored five quick points for St. John’s to pull the Red Storm back within five before Georgetown ended the half with four straight points to take a 42-33 edge into the locker room.

The Hoyas opened the second half with six unanswered, but the Johnnies responded with a 10-0 run of their own, closing the gap to five, 48-43, at the 14:21 mark of the latter stanza.

Trailing by that same five-point margin, 52-47, a few minutes later, the Red Storm had three looks at a bucket on one possession thanks to a steal and a couple of offensive rebounds, but couldn’t get a shot to fall. Georgetown answered with four straight to push its lead back to nine, 56-47, at the midway mark of the period.

Down by 10, 62-52, with six and a half minutes to play, Figueroa nailed a triple to kick-start the Red Storm’s historic run. Rutherford made a layup to bring St. John’s within five before Earlington rattled off 10 straight points of his own, including a pair of 3-pointers, to put the Red Storm on top by five.

Figueroa added another trey before Dunn closed the run with five free throws.

St. John’s improved to 29-33 all-time in the BIG EAST Tournament and assured a winning record for Head Coach Mike Anderson in his first season at the helm of the program. Anderson has never suffered a losing season in 18 years as a head coach, one of just four active Division I head men to coach at least 15 year and never finish below .500.

Following Wednesday’s contest, the BIG EAST Conference announced the remainder of the league’s men’s basketball tournament will be played under restricted attendance policy due to the rapid progression of COVID-19 and escalating developments nationally. For more information visit BIGEAST.com.

St. John’s will now play against Creighton with a tip-off time slated for 12:00 pm at the World’s Most Famous Arena. The first ever BIG EAST Tournament meeting between the Red Storm and Bluejays will be broadcast live on FS1 and 970 AM WNYM. Tim Brando and Nick Bahe are on the call for the national telecast while John Minko and Brandon Tierney will handle the broadcasting duties on the Red Storm Sports Network from Learfield IMG-College. The audio broadcast can also be found on TuneIn, Sirius XM and RedStormSports.com.

The Bluejays enter today’s contest having won seven of their final eight regular season games. Creighton’s lone loss during this stretch came against the Red Storm on March 1 at Carnesecca Arena, as the Johnnies buried a season-high 14 threes en route to a 91-71 victory. During the regular season, Creighton led the BIG EAST averaging 77.9 points per game in league action. The Bluejays also shot a conference-best 47.1 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from three-point territory in BIG EAST play. An All-BIG EAST First Team selection, Ty-Shon Alexander leads Creighton averaging 16.9 points per game.

The winner of today’s quarterfinal matchup will advance to take on either No. 4 Providence or No. 5 Butler in the tournament semifinals on Friday night at 6:30 p.m.

Quotes:

St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson

 

Opening statement…

 

“Proud of these guys. I always think the way we play is a game of runs, and we had one of our better runs this year. Fatigue, I thought, was a factor. You look at these two guys up here, I thought they were so important in this particular win. And Georgetown, Pat has done an unbelievable job. He has a short bench. But those guys continue to play at a high level. Allen, we had no answer for him in the first half — he and Pickett. I thought in the second half we did a much better job of really making them feel our pressure defense. Fatigue was a factor in this game. I thought they wore down at the end. With six minutes to go I think it’s a 10-point game or something like that, 62-52, I think, and we went on an unbelievable run. I just saw our guys, the energy level pick up. But it started with our defense. Just first game you never know how your guys are going to come out. Especially in the tournament setting, I didn’t have a clue. But I guess they satisfied me from the standpoint of they actually put together a much better second half than they did the first half.”

On the team’s ability to turn things around this season…

 

“It tested my patience, I know that. I had to constantly preach to these guys, just don’t let go of the rope. We’re close, guys, we’re close. And you could see it, because we had — we started getting contributions from some guys that, number one, they hadn’t played at all last year. So they were learning their roles. You talk about Marcellus [Earlington]. You talk about Greg Williams. Even Rasheem [Dunn]. He had to settle down. The guy that constantly, I think he’s — I think he’s kind of the litmus test for our basketball team is Nick Rutherford. When he comes in, things happen. And it seems like he’s the Energizer Bunny or whatever, and he just trickles throughout our team. I think it’s just a combination of guys understanding their roles and not getting so down because we were losing some close games. And all we had to do was learn how to finish. We’re competing, competing at a high level. But I guess to answer your question, we got more guys that are giving us something. I thought our bench played really, really well. We don’t wear them down if David [Caraher] doesn’t come in and give us those minutes. Damien [Sears] comes in and gives us quality minutes. Nick [Rutherford] comes off the bench and gives us quality minutes. So everybody that came in in this game contributed in a big way.”

On pulling out a win like that in the BIG EAST Tournament…

 

“I think, you know, it’s taking your practice to the game. We always talk about that. And I even have to tell them sometimes don’t act like you never seen that before or act like you’ve seen it before because they’ll do something and they’ll just kind of go crazy. I say, we do that every day in practice. But to see it in a game, it just tells me that these guys are — they’re playing for each other; they’re trusting each other offensively and defensively. I thought the last six minutes was a classic. I thought the trapping, the rotation — just, I just think guys just fixing things on defense, they were rotating the right place. We got every loose ball. We were getting rebounds. We were in attack mode. And as Marcellus started knocking shots down we found the mismatch. Then, guess what? It opened up the lane. And LJ Figueroa, he’ll shoot it from half court if you let him. That was a big shot he hit in the corner with the game still in balance. But Georgetown was never out of the game.”

On the adjustments the team made after the break…

 

“If you know what Georgetown was getting they were getting layups or 3-point shots. That’s what they were doing. I think early in the game we had a little success touching balls and stealing some balls, and I thought we got greedy. When you get greedy, guess what? You get out of position. We shoot it. We’re settling for jump shots. We shoot it and they get it and go to the other end and we’re jogging back. I talked about, guys, transition defense will be first and foremost. Not only that, let’s make sure our pressure is going to be effective and with purpose. I thought let’s make sure our rotations — and take some pride in your defense. I think sometimes guys have to take some individual pride. And let’s say the Allen kid, he was on a role, run. Somebody has to step up and say I got him. Guess what? At halftime that’s what they said. And then you look at the rebounds. I mean, we went small, went small in that game. I thought it was an effective lineup. We had those three small guards, and, LJ, you were my power forward. He was my power forward and look at the center [Marcellus Earlington] here, but he’s shorter than me. (Laughter).”

On the team’s confidence coming into tomorrow’s matchup with Creighton…

 

“That being said, Greg [McDermott] has done a great job with that basketball team. They’re the BIG EAST champs. And so it’s going to be an awesome challenge, but at the same time it’s a great opportunity and one of the greatest tournaments there is, the BIG EAST Tournament. So I look forward to the opportunity and the challenge.”

 

St. John’s Guard/Forward LJ Figueroa

 

On pulling out a win like that in the BIG EAST Tournament…

 

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. Just Coach always emphasizes we’re never out of game. We just go out there, play as hard as we can. I mean, honestly I don’t think anybody knew on the court that we were on a 23-0 run. It just felt like we were out there having fun, and that’s how it’s supposed to feel.”

On if the team is on the cusp of a tournament run…

 

“We’re going to go back to the hotel, get some rest, wake up in the morning, the next game is the biggest game on our schedule. So we’re just going to come in and execute, play high energy, play our type of basketball and live with the results.”

St. John’s Forward Marcellus Earlington

 

On the team’s 23-0 to close out the game…

 

“It was a great feeling. I work on my shot every day. So it didn’t surprise me as much. And my teammates did a good job of finding me at my spots. I had good spot-up shots. Like I said, it was great to go out there and go on that run. Coach always talks about periods. In practice we run four-minute periods, three-minute periods. And I think we translated what we did in practice to the game. So the outcome is great.”

On if the team is on the cusp of a tournament run…

 

“I feel like as a team, feel like we could beat anybody in the country. And you know we’re just going to build off this win, the momentum. If we come out and play the style of basketball we’ve been playing all year, and if that outcome is the win, then it’s a win.”

 

On the team’s confidence coming into tomorrow’s matchup with Creighton…

 

“I believe we can beat any team. So we’re going to take it like as it is any team. Have the same preparation. Go in with the same mindset.”

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