(The celebration was on for Marquette late in this one – @MarquetteMBB)
The St. John’s Red Storm beat a team they lost two twice in the regular season, DePaul, on Wednesday night to open the Big East Tournament, 82-74.
On Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm faced the exact opposite scenario, as they faced a team they beat twice in the regular season, Marquette, in the quarterfinals.
It turned out the 7th-seeded St. John’s had the opposite result as well, as #2 Marquette ran them out, 86-54, and outscored them by 20 in the second half.
Marquette sent the message early that this would be a different game, as they raced out to a 26-16 lead on a Sam Hauser three-pointer at the 8:17 mark of the first half. That lead ballooned to 14, at 36-22, on a Sacar Anim three with 4:29 left. They took a 38-26 lead into halftime.
In the second half, St. John’s found themselves still trailing by 12, at 42-30, early, but they turned it up on both ends and went on a 7-1 run capped off by an electrifying dunk by Justin Simon that made it a six-point game, 43-37, at 14:58, and got the sold out crowd at The Garden electrified. Simon even danced along the baseline for good measure, which was interesting considering how they were dominated up to that point.
Marquette took a timeout, and then after a foul by Mustapha Heron on Sam Hauser, there was a media timeout. This sapped any momentum St. John’s had gained by that point.
The Golden Eagles then reeled off a run that basically decided the game, a 23-2 spurt capped by a three-pointer from Hauser at the 9:34 mark that gave them a 66-39 lead. They led by as many as 35 on their way to the 86-54 win.
Marquette was led by the Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard, who had 30 points on 8-15 from the field, including 3-6 from the field and a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line, with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. The one blemish was that he committed 6 turnovers.
Sacar Anim had 13 points (5-10 FG, 3-4 threes), with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Sam Hauser had 10 points (4-7 FG, 2-4 threes), with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
St. John’s was held to 32.8 percent, or 20-61, from the field. They were led by Justin Simon, who had 14 points on 6-15 shooting (1-2 threes), with 8 rebounds and 2 assists. Shamorie Ponds had 13 points (4-14 FG), 3 steals, 2 assists, and a rebound.
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin said of the game, “Offensively, we struggled all night. I thought we cast up too many early and bailout shots. We never got anything going offensively. The game changed. We got off to 11 or 13 to 5 to start the half. We struggled offensively. We got some stops and got on the floor a little bit, but they got free on the open floor. We had a few miscommunications. That’s the type of team they are. They hadn’t done it to us this year, but I’ve seen them do it to good teams. They got that quick run and opened the lead up. We had no rhythm offensively, and our defense broke down. It doesn’t take much for them to create separation. That’s pretty much what happened…
“I give a lot of credit to Marquette. I think they’re a terrific team, one of the best teams in the country. I think they’re a phenomenal offensive team. As far as abandoning my coaching philosophies and techniques, no. When you get beat, it’s easy to look at things in one way. So in my mind, we just let the game go and clean our minds and our bodies and come back and give our best effort, whatever that may be.”
Simon said of how playing back-to-back nights affected their effort, “It’s a big factor. It’s a big factor for sure. A little stress on our bodies, to come out here and play a great team like Marquette. You know, they’re fresh. It was tough. We knew it was going to be challenging, but we were up for the challenge, I felt. Tonight, we just let it go a little bit.”
St. John’s exits the Big East Tournament having secured just one victory and end the season losing four of their last five games. Their overall record is 21-12 (9 wins, 11 losses in Big East play), and it is now up to the committee as to whether they are worthy of the NCAA Tournament when the brackets are released on Sunday night,
Mullin said of their March Madness prospects, “I’ll be watching Sunday. I’m not really here to make a case. If I need a lawyer — we do what we did, and we’ll see what happens Sunday. No politicking. I stay out of politics.”
On what he told his team to do between now and the selection show Sunday, “I told my guys to take a break. They need a break mentally, physically, little break from each other, and we’ll get back together Sunday, have a good practice, and then probably watch the selection show and see what’s what.”
Mullin said of some of the things he could have been done differently during Conference play, where they went 8-10 in the Big East regular season, and things you can implement for postseason play, “I think being resilient. I think consistency comes with discipline, good daily work habits, work ethic, and a lot of those things take time. From where we came from, we’re actually much better than we were, believe it or not. If you look at our conference, from top to bottom really, I think in some ways probably very underrated. Yeah, I guess it depends how you look at it. You can look at it as a loss of one or two possessions. Would I like to change them? Yeah. I’d like to make a few more free throws and grab a few more offensive rebounds, but you’re talking about 33 games now of analyzation. So each game has its own personality and its own set of circumstances. We’re in a position now we’re taking two days off and going to come back refreshed and give it a good run.”
Marquette faces Seton Hall in the semifinals Friday night at 9:00 p.m.