Another night, another test for St. John’s. Only this time, it came from a team that many felt were a fluke despite a coach with a Hall of Fame resume that just happened to pick tonight’s opponent to win the conference before the season even started.
In one of the more one-sided games of the season for the Red Storm, they were simply no match for 15th-ranked Louisville, (15-3, 4-1 in the Big East) who overpowered the Johnnies (11-6, 4-3) by the final of 88-63 on the Cardinals’ home court at the newly-opened Yum! Center. Preston Knowles led the way for Louisville with 25 points, while Kyle Kuric added 20 on 7-of-9 shooting (5-of-7 from three-point range) and Peyton Siva had a near-triple-double with 10 points, 10 assists and seven steals.
“Louisville beat us to the punch in all aspects of the game,” said head coach Steve Lavin. “They were aggressive on defense and they were able to turn us over. They play with great confidence on offense, they were 7-of-10 from three. They really had their way for the most part of 40 minutes and were able to win the game.”
Paris Horne was one of only three Johnnies in double figures, his 13 points good enough for the team lead, while Malik Stith added 12 and Justin Brownlee contributed 11 in the losing effort for the Storm, whose 25 turnovers led to 30 Louisville points. The Cardinals also shot 53 percent from the field in a matchup where head coach Rick Pitino was again reminded of his controversial first-place vote for St. John’s in the Big East preseason poll.
“I just think that we had a great night, and they had a bad night. It happens,” stated the brutally honest Pitino. “I wasn’t just blowing smoke on picking number one. Obviously now, I think Pittsburgh is the number one team. That being said, if you have ten seniors, that gives you a lot of experience. They’re very talented. The third thing is they’re very hungry to make the tournament. I told them when I was going down the line, `You guys can make the tournament. They have to keep playing hard. They had an off night tonight. We had a very good night.”
Fortunately for Red Storm fans, the team has shown that they are capable of being tournament team more often than not, and they will get another chance this Saturday when Cincinnati invades Carnesecca Arena in what should be an underrated, but highly competitive, conference matchup.
Finally, we’ll leave you with our newfound tradition of providing some lasting impressions about this game in the Bluegrass State.
-The Johnnies were unfortunately much more careless with the ball tonight than they had hoped to be. A season-high 25 turnovers resulting in 30 Cardinal points and seven steals for guard Peyton Siva were the biggest factors in the margin of victory.
-Kyle Kuric went into this game as somewhat of an enigma given his erratic scoring tendencies, and just as he did last year against Syracuse, he picked the right night to show up, scoring 20 on 7-of-9 shooting while draining five trifectas.
-Don’t sleep on the Cardinals. While they may not have an elite star, (unless you feel Preston Knowles is among the best of the conference) Rick Pitino has a versatile cast of role players that are realizing that the sum of the whole is greater than that of the parts.
-Malik Boothe and Malik Stith were once upon a time an effective backcourt tandem. However, that was back in the nonconference portion of the schedule, where teams were not as competitive as the Johnnies’ Big East brethren. Needless to say, the “M & M Boys” were just as counterproductive for Steve Lavin as they were last week on the road against Notre Dame, a matchup where the Irish won by 15.
-Although St. John’s hit free throws well once again, (17-for-18) they were done in by long-range shooting. The Cardinals outscored the Johnnies 39-6 (13 shots to 2) from beyond the arc, and St. John’s yielded nine of those threes to Knowles and Kuric alone.