This St. Nick Not So Jolly

Last year, St. John’s went upstate to play St. Bonaventure and pulled out a last-second win on the road. Last week, the Johnnies beat Wagner 69-61 two years to the day that they topped fellow NEC school St. Francis by the same score.

Tonight was, in the words of Yogi Berra, “deja vu all over again”. The Red Storm hosted the Bonnies this time around, but the road team stole the win in the final seconds. Andrew Nicholson’s mid-range jumper gave St. Bonaventure the 67-66 victory, but only after Dwight Hardy fell short on his game-winning attempt following Nicholson’s shot with 5.2 seconds remaining.

Nicholson scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half and added 13 rebounds as the Bonnies (5-2) used a 10-0 second-half run to defeat St. John’s (also 5-2). The Red Storm were done in with a 10-for-20 performance at the free throw line, despite leading at halftime.

“We’ve got to improve our free throw shooting,” remarked St. John’s coach Steve Lavin after the game. “10-of-20 won’t get it done. I told our kids the things we struggled with tonight are all correctable, and that’s the good news.” Hardy’s 24 points for St. John’s were a career-high for the Bronx product, and Justin Brownlee continued his sensational start to the season by chipping in with 14 points of his own, albeit in a losing effort.

Despite the loss, there were some positives for the Johnnies. On the defensive side of the ball, St. John’s was able to hold serve by registering 14 steals and forcing 19 turnovers while committing only eight of their own. The 19 St. Bonaventure turnovers resulted in 21 points for the Johnnies, but inefficiency at the foul line sunk any chances of the Red Storm extending their winning streak to six games.

St. John’s returns to the road Saturday night as they cross the Whitestone Bridge to tip off against Fordham and head coach Tom Pecora in the Bronx for their final tuneup before the Holiday Festival.