St. John’s Drops Big East Opener To Providence

(Alpha Diallo (11) and Rodney Bullock head back to a happy Providence bench at the end of the game, with St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin (bottom left) looking on – Photo by Jason Schott)

Thursday night at Carnesecca Arena felt like a second opening night to the season, as it was the start of Big East Conference play, with the 10-2 St. John’s Red Storm hosting the 9-4 Providence Friars.

Providence has become a perennial NCAA Tournament team, so if St. John’s could have pulled off the win in front of a sellout crowd of 5,602, it would have been quite the statement,

Unfortunately for St. John’s, it did not turn out that way, as Providence poured in 53 points in the second half to pull away late on their way to a 94-72 win.

Providence was led by Kyron Cartwright, who had a double-double with 21 points and an astounding 15 assists. Cartwright shot a superb 8-for-11 from the field, including 5-for-7 from behind the arc.

Cartwright helped Providence shoot a superb 53 percent from behind the arc, making 16 threes out of 30 attempts. They shot 54.7 percent, or 35-64, overall.

Jalen Lindsey made six threes to finish with 18 points, part of a 6-for-10 shooting night, with all shots coming from behind the arc.

Rodney Bullock had a big night, with 20 points on 8-11 from the field, including two threes, four rebounds and four assists. Alpha Diallo had a double-double with 16 points (6-13 FG, 3-4 threes) and 12 rebounds, with two assists and two steals.

Providence Head Coach Ed Cooley said of the win, “It was a great night for us. Kyron [Cartwright] was as efficient and effective as anyone I’ve ever coached in a game, and that includes my Boston College days. I actually was a fan more than a coach today because he was the true coach of the team. Everybody rode his energy, his enthusiasm, and we played with a ton of confidence. This is the first time I’ve seen our team play with a little joy because we’ve been so decimated by injuries. It was a good team win. Obviously, playing on the road in conference play is important to get a win. This game was about Cartwright because he controlled the game from start to finish, and I was a fan more than a coach tonight. It was a good team win.”

St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin said of the game, “You have to give [Cartwright] and Providence credit because they played a great game. They made 3-pointers, moved the ball, got in transition, and basically took us apart in the second half. They dominated us. Now why? That’s hard to say after watching the game live, but you can’t just single out Shamorie because he was going past everyone.”

St. John’s got off to a good start, and held a six-point lead, 32-26,  on a Shamorie Ponds layup, with 4:14 left in the first half.

At that point, Cooley called a timeout and his team responded with a 9-2 run, as Diallo got a three, followed by two from Lindsey to take a 35-34 lead at the 2:49 mark, and ultimately a 41-40 lead at halftime.

St. John’s got a couple baskets to open the second half, and a Tariq Owens layup gave them a 44-43 lead at the 18:26 mark. That would be their last lead of the night.

Providence would soon take over the game, as a Cartwright three capped an 8-2 run that gave them a 58-51 lead at 14:25, followed by a 7-2 lead capped by a Lindsey three that built the lead to ten, 65-55, with 12:21 left.

The Friars’ lead would balloon to 19, at 76-57, on an 11-0 run capped by Kalif Young at the 7:54 mark.

Amar Alibegovic gave the Red Storm one last spark, as he scored four points, and an Owens dunk pulled them within 13, at 80-67, with 4:20 left.

As if on cue, Bullock, Lindsey, and Cartwright drained three in a row from behind the arc, and a Bullock layup to make it 91-72 with 2:18 left sealed the win.

St. John’s was led by Marvin Clark II, who had 20 points on 6-13 shooting, including 2-7 on threes, with eight rebounds, but a costly three turnovers as well.

Shamorie Ponds came up limping halfway through the second half and had to depart early with a leg injury. Ponds had 16 points (7-15 FG, 2-7 threes), six assists, four rebounds, and three steals in 31 minutes.

Mullin said of Ponds’ injury, “I don’t know. I never saw what happened, but I saw him limping. I asked him and he said that he was really hurting after a layup. Otherwise, I don’t know exactly. I noticed him limping at the start of the second half.”

Mullin said of how the injury to Ponds affected the team’s ability to climb back into the game, “Again, getting back into the game is getting stops and buckets. If you’re not getting stops, then it doesn’t matter what you are doing at the other end. We just couldn’t generate any stops tonight. Offensively, I thought that even though we didn’t score the ball, we were able to get what we wanted for the most part. I don’t think it was anything too complicated there, but they were just scoring at will. That’s what it came down to.”

The St. John’s defense let them down in this one after they allowed just 54 points per game on 35.9 percent shooting in their five non-conference home wins.

Mullin said of the overall defensive performance, “It’s something we will look at in detail tomorrow, but in general they just were living in our paint. It was their main point of attack. Our defense has been solid. We’ve been pretty good on the ball, and very good off the ball. Tonight, we were horrendous on the ball. [Kyron] Cartwright basically got wherever he wanted to go and broke us down from there. It’s something we’ve done well [this season] but we were terrible tonight.”

In contrast to Providence, St. John’s had a tough night behind the arc, as they were 7-28 on three-point attempts, including 7-18 in the first half and 0-10 in the second half.

Justin Simon, who finished with six points (3-10 FG, 0-2 threes), five assists, and four rebounds, said of the Red Storm shooting 18 3-pointers in the first half, “They were playing zone, so we were able to get a few good looks from three. I think we did settle a little bit in the first half, and we could have gotten to the rim. They didn’t have too many shot blockers there, and only had one block in the game. We could have got to the rim a little more, but our game plan on offense is to find the open man and make the correct read.”

Mullin said of On what was said following the game, “I’m very transparent. I even told them at halftime that [Providence] was too comfortable, and we were just kind of out there participating. When you do that and a team gets hot, it’s tough to stop. It doesn’t matter where you play or who you’re playing, if you give someone space and enough confidence, it’s hard to stop. I told them two things. One, a little self-analysis doesn’t hurt. We will look at it tomorrow. We will look at how good we’ve been, and how different we looked tonight. Then we have to forget about it. Basically, you have to be accountable for it and then put it behind you. The worst things you can do are sulk about it, blame, or feel sorry for yourself. It’s okay. We went out and laid an egg, but we have 17 conference games left. We will make it up along the way if we approach it the right way. That was us out there, and there’s no other way around that. I will take responsibility for not having us prepared to play, we will fix some stuff tomorrow, and then go out and play on Sunday. That’s really all you can do. Again, I just want to emphasize how well Providence played. They took advantage of everything and when you are shooting the ball like that, that’s an impressive game they put together.”

On being able to quickly turn around and prepare for Sunday at Seton Hall, Mullin said, “That’s the most important thing. Even in wins. I say it all the time and people think I’m speaking in clichés, but it’s not a cliché. If you live your life that way, it’s not a cliché. If we had won, we would have been looking at the film tomorrow and moving onto Seton Hall anyway, so that’s what we’ll do. Obviously, when you win you sleep better, food tastes a little better, but being accountable for these things is important for the development of your team. We are not going to win every game, and how you handle it is as important when you lose as when you win. When you win, it kind of takes care of itself, but when you lose, it’s important how you handle the accountability of it and what you do the next time out.”

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