Punching the Golden Ticket

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Steve Lavin was just 17 months old the last time St. John’s defeated Marquette, while Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams wasn’t even born yet. In a matchup where one school owned a winning streak against the other going back to the Lyndon Johnson administration, one school took a major step toward returning to the limelight, while the other saw their hopes take a significant hit.

Playing on the road for the second time in three nights following their upset of then-No. 9 Connecticut, the Johnnies (16-9, 8-5 in the Big East) snapped a 45-year schneid with an 80-68 victory over Marquette; (15-11, 6-7) the first over the Golden Eagles since February 26, 1966. Four players had double-figure scoring efforts for the Red Storm last night, led by Dwight Hardy’s game-high 28. The Storm are now 8-0 this season when at least four players tally ten or more points. D.J. Kennedy added 15, with Justin Brownlee’s 11 and Justin Burrell’s 10-point, 12-rebound effort accounting for the other bright spots in a game designated as a must-win for St. John’s in order to preserve its chances of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.

Jimmy Butler led the Golden Eagles with 23 while newcomer Jae Crowder fell one rebound short of a double-double, posting 15 points and nine rebounds. For Marquette, the loss drops them under .500 in the Big East following their road defeat Sunday afternoon at the hands of a Georgetown team that has now won eight straight conference games after dropping four of their first five. The Golden Eagles will now welcome Seton Hall into the Bradley Center for their next game Saturday night, while St. John’s returns home to face fourth-ranked Pittsburgh in a noon matinee at Madison Square Garden, where the Storm have won six of seven this season; the last four of which coming against Top 25 teams (Three of those four were in the Top 10).

Interested in the factors behind the win, or maybe some perspective on the season for the Johnnies up to this point? That’s what tonight’s lasting impressions are for.

Lasting Impressions
- It could be argued that this past Sunday started a new season for St. John’s after their upset win over UConn; and just as they did in their first two Big East contests, the Johnnies opened with back-to-back road wins.
– Justin Brownlee’s highlight reel dunk provided the turning point of the game in the second half, pulling St. John’s within five (45-40) before going on a 40-23 run for the duration of the game.
– The Red Storm defense and Malik Boothe pick up game balls for their efforts last night, with a plus-10 turnover margin (forcing 18 while only committing eight) and the little man facilitating action that the box score won’t indicate.
– Darius Johnson-Odom has made the motor run for Marquette all season, and the Golden Eagles could have used him tonight. Although the junior, described by coach Buzz Williams as a “hoops savant,” had 14 points, he was largely hindered by four fouls that kept him from showcasing his first-team all-Big East potential.
– Finally, this game hurt Marquette just as much as it helped St. John’s. The Golden Eagles do not have an easy stretch run, and will likely need to pick up a win or two in the Big East tournament just to get back on the bubble; while the Johnnies are seemingly in barring a meltdown. Three wins in their last five (it’s not impossible) would place the Storm at 19-11 and 11-7 in the Big East.