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Storms’ Coming: Friars lose to St. John’s, 86-76

Wednesday, February 05, 2014


Ed Cooley said before the season St. John’s probably had, from the top of their roster to the bottom, the most talented team in the Big East Conference.

That talent certainly was in full effect Tuesday night. And unfortunately for Cooley’s Friars, SJU also had one of their best games of the season as the Red Storm held off PC 86-76 at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

St. John’s, winners of four of their past five games since dropping an 83-82 double-overtime game to PC on January 16th, zipped out to a fast start with a 10-2 lead in the opening three minutes. Before the Friars knew what hit them, the Red Storm repeatedly found their way to the basket for relatively easy scores against the Providence man-to-man defense…and grew their lead to as much as 19 points at 33-14 before a late rally. Josh Fortune and Bryce Cotton hit threes to stanch the bleeding, but damage had already been done. Behind 15 first-half points from forward JaKarr Sampson and freshman guard Rysheed Jordan’s 13 points, SJU powered its way to a 53-37 advantage at the half.

At one point, Providence’s inside game was practically helpless to slow the Storm down…with the Friars outscored 20-2 in the paint and St. John’s torching the defense for 61% shooting in the half.

The second half started much like the first, not exactly a welcome sign for a team in need of a comeback. SJU jumped out with a 14-7 run and led by 23 points, 67-44, after D’Angelo Harrison popped in a three with 14:50 remaining. But before the white flags could signal a surrender, the Friars began to show some signs of life. Cotton (season high 32 points) scored nine unanswered points against the Storm’s so-far suffocating defense…and after two free throws from Kadeem Batts, Cotton answered with five more to cap a 19-2 run to pull PC back within six at 69-63.

There was still 8:12 left – plenty of time to complete what would have been a monumental comeback.

Credit the St. John’s defense, however, for two key stops over the next three minutes that turned the game back in their favor. And Harrison, a pre-season 1st team all-Big East guard who had picked up his fourth personal foul with 11:11 left, not only stayed in the game without fouling out, but connected on 10 straight free throws down the stretch to hold off the Friar charge. A LaDontae Henton trey actually got PC within five with just :47 seconds left…but the foul line was anything but foul for the Red Storm – hitting 13 of 15 (led by Harrison’s effort) in the second half to clinch it.

It’s not a devastating loss by any means, even though losing at home is always tough. And just like that, St. John’s (14-9, 4-6 Big East) finds itself right back in the mix in the Big East Conference, which is right where they had hoped to be all along.

Friar Notes

Providence drops to 16-7 on the season, 6-4 in league play, and earns a split of their two games against St. John’s for the season. The Red Storm has now won five of six since losing to PC January 16th, with the lone loss on a buzzer-beater at Creighton, and includes a 15-point home win last Saturday against MarquetteCotton’s 32 points was just two shy of a career high, but was a Big East high, and he also had six assists in playing all 40 minutes for a 7th straight game…Batts finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, his 6th double-double of the season and 14th of his career…Henton narrowly missed a double-double as well with 10 points and nine rebounds, and PC outrebounded SJU 42-32…Fortune finished with 12 points (4-of-5 on three’s) while Tyler Harris had a tough night (two points in 20 minutes, 1-of-8 from the floor)…PC had a season-high 12 made three-point field goals (in 28 attempts)…St. John’s was held to just 34% shooting in the second half, but still finished at 50% for the game – which should give an idea how well they played in the opening 20 minutes…Harrison led the way with 22 points, 11-of-12 from the line…Sampson finished with a season-high tying 21 points and Jordan had a career high 18 points with six assists…the Red Storm committed only five turnovers for the game, while they forced 15 Friar mistakes for 19 points, outscoring PC 19-4 off of turnovers over 40 minutes…they also punished the Friars 42-18 scoring in the paint…prior to the tip-off, USA Basketball named Ed Cooley as one of three coaches to lead the national U-18 team in the FIBA Americas Tournament this summer. Cooley and Sean Miller of Arizona will assist for former Friar and current Florida head coach Billy Donovan…PC will now head back to the road for two straight games, beginning with a first-ever visit to the Cintas Center at Xavier Saturday afternoon (2:45 pre-game on 103.7 FM and friars.com) and then a quick-turnaround for a Monday night encounter at Georgetown


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