College Hoops Monday Recap: St. John's Moves to 3-0

January 4th, 2011
It's been quite some time since St. John's was able to enjoy a true home court advantage at Madison Square Garden, as more successful programs with hearty fan bases in the area (Connecticut and Syracuse come to mind) would take over the building when playing the Red Storm. But Monday night may have been as close to a beginning to the end of that as Steve Lavin's troops beat Georgetown 61-58 to move to 3-0 in Big East play. The win, their fifth straight, also ended a 14-game losing streak to ranked teams for the Red Storm who have to deal with ranked teams in their next seven games as well. Dwight Hardy led the way with 20 points, the final two coming on a pair of free throws with three seconds remaining to provide the final margin.

But his reverse layup with 42 seconds remaining to give the Red Storm a 57-56 lead may be the play that's remembered, not just for the degree of difficulty but for Coach Lavin's jump on the sideline that may give Marquette's Buzz Williams a run for highest vertical among Big East coaches. The Hoyas regained the lead on a pair of Jason Clark free throws, which the Red Storm answered on a Justin Brownlee tip-in with 26.1 seconds left in the game. Georgetown made just four of seventeen three pointers in a shooting performance eerily similar to their loss at Notre Dame, but this time Austin Freeman (2-10 FG) struggled in addition to Clark and Chris Wright. Hollis Thompson led the Hoyas with 16 and no other player reached double figures while Hardy and Brownlee (15 points, six assists) did so for St. John's. To say the least Coach Lavin's team looks far different than the one that dropped consecutive games to St. Bonaventure and Fordham.

"All of these wonderful things have happened by developing that second gear offensively," said Coach Lavin. "It also helps set our defense because we're not shooting as many long shots. That's what hurt us in the Fordham game. We didn't manage the clock and our shot selection was poor. The long shots led to run-outs and allowed Fordham to get back into the game. So I think we learned a great deal through that loss and as a result we're a different team (quote courtesy of St. John's Athletics)."

The Hoyas may have outrebounded St. John's 35-24 but they also had 14 turnovers to 11 assists. The Red Storm, who have employed Hardy at the point due to the added dimension of scoring he provides from the spot, were much better at taking care of the basketball with 12 assists and four assists. It's also interesting to see a rotation emerge for a group that has nine seniors. While Dele Coker (who's been a good buffer in starting, which helps keep Justin Burrell out of foul trouble) and Sean Evans played a combined 13 minutes three players played 40 minutes (Brownlee, Hardy and D.J. Kennedy) while Burrell, Paris Horne and Dwayne Polee all saw at least 20. No one's jumping to the conclusion that St. John's is on a fast track to Houston, but they're well on their way to getting The World's Most Famous Arena back to being a true home floor.

Other Notable Happenings

1. Michigan State hangs on to beat Northwestern in Evanston.
And hang on the Spartans did, watching a 13-point second half lead dwindle away before Draymond Green (15 points, 11 rebounds) and company took care of business late in a 65-62 win. Northwestern is now 0-2 in Big Ten play and it won't get any easier as they go to Illinois on Thursday night, which could set them up for a must-win two game stretch against Indiana and Iowa. But how were the Wildcats able to get back into the game? The foul line which may have also cost them due to their accuracy or lack thereof (16-for-24) while Michigan State made just one of five free throws. Drew Crawford led the home team with 17 points and eight rebounds but the normally accurate John Shurna made just one of eleven shots from the field. Michigan State finished the game with 20 assists on 29 field goals, and a team that some wondered about is on top of the Big Ten with a 2-0 record.

2. Milwaukee whips Butler by 24 points.
The only other score that may qualify as a stunner on Monday may be UMass getting their doors blown off at Central Connecticut State 92-63. Given Butler's play at the Diamond Head Classic it was easy to assume they'd simply retain favorite status in the Horizon League despite the play of teams such as Cleveland State, but Milwaukee sent an emphatic answer to the contrary. Kaylon Williams posted a triple double (10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) while three other Panthers reached double figures (Anthony Hill-22, Tony Meier-20 and Tone Boyle-15) in the 76-52 home victory. Matt Howard led the Bulldogs with 14 points but a 15-2 Milwaukee run in the second half shut the door, handing them their first regular season conference loss since February of 2009 (that one also came at Milwaukee). Butler may still be the favorite in the Horizon League (and they should be) but this isn't going to be a cakewalk. Their consistent excellence has forced the other member to commit to getting better, which is a good thing for the league as a whole.

3. Florida State's offensive woes could ultimately be their downfall.
The latest team to be propped up as a possibility to be the second-best team in the ACC showed off their one flaw last night, and while it's no secret that Leonard Hamilton's team struggles offensively losing to Auburn is bad. FSU shot just 35% from the field and made just 13 of 26 from the foul line in the 65-60 loss on The Plains. By comparison Auburn made 13 free throws on 18 attempts. Chris Singleton led the Seminoles with 20 points but going 4-12 from the charity stripe likely isn't what the junior had in mind. The main criticism of this group has been the lack of a true point guard. Derwin Kitchen had seven assists and as a team FSU finished with 15 to 14 turnovers. Florida State simply couldn't shoot the basketball this time around. If it isn't one thing it's another for the Seminoles offensively, and that could have them in serious trouble if not remedied before they get too far into ACC play.

Top Three Games

1. St. John's 61, (13) Georgetown 58

2. Jacksonville 67, Campbell 65 A Glenn Powell layup with one second remaining moved the Dolphins to 3-0 in Atlantic Sun play on the road. Russell Powell, who led JU with 14 points, drove the length of the floor and found Glenn for the hoop. Lorne Merthie led the Camels with 14.

3. Wagner 73, Quinnipiac 68 Tyler Murray scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds while backcourt partner Latif Rivers added 12 and seven assists as the Seahawks knocked off the preseason NEC favorites on the road. James Johnson led the Bobcats with 15 while Justin Rutty added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Three Notable Performances

1. F Morgan Sabia (Hartford) 27 points, 17 rebounds and four assists in the Hawks' 82-74 win over St. Francis (NY).

2. F Leon Powell (Southeast Missouri State) 36 points (11-13 FG, 14-20 FT) and eight rebounds in the Redhawks' 82-75 win over Tennessee-Martin.

3. F Eric Buckner (Georgia State) 28 points (12-16 FG), nine rebounds and three blocks in the Panthers' 75-65 win over VCU.