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It seems like St. John’s has managed to take everything it couldn’t do over the last three seasons, and finally get it done with authority in this campaign. Yet there was something that still remained unresolved: Picking up a win while wearing the Johnnies’ alternate black jerseys. You can now cross that off the Red Storm’s bucket list as well.
After not being able to put South Florida away for the first thirty minutes, No. 15 St. John’s (20-10, 12-6 in the Big East) gradually flexed their muscle in the process of grinding out a 72-56 victory over the Bulls. (9-22, 3-15) Four Red Storm players scored at least ten points, led by D.J. Kennedy‘s 16. In addition to gaining their first victory in six attempts wearing black, the Johnnies improved to 10-0 on the season when four or more players end the night with two digits in the scoring column.
“It was touching for us because the fans stuck with us through all four years,” said point guard Malik Boothe after the game. Boothe was one of ten fourth-year players honored for their careers on the corner of Union and Utopia, a ceremony that also included the four student managers on the team that were in their senior years. “It’s also something they deserve,” stated Boothe after being asked how much the win meant not just to the team, but also the newly-rejuvenated fan base that had clamored for a winner since Lou Carnesecca’s retirement two decades ago.
USF started out hot from beyond the arc, with a pair of three-pointers from Shaun Noriega, who finished with 14 points. However, the Bulls would only get one more trifecta the rest of the night, missing 11 out of 12 triples after draining the first two. St. John’s was able to play their game in the second half, scoring 12 points off nine USF turnovers. The Johnnies will play their next game in the Big East tournament, facing either Seton Hall or Rutgers in the second round of the tournament Wednesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden after amassing a first-round bye.
With the last game of the regular season in the books, here are done lasting impressions on the final game at Carnesecca Arena in a season referred to by coach Steve Lavin as a “journey that has been an absolute pleasure, honor, and privilege” to participate in.
– The turning point in this game came after the Johnnies were able to “sound the Horne” (credit JohnnyJungle.com’s own David Berov for the expression) with a Paris Horne trifecta with just under nine minutes remaining in regulation. USF called a timeout seconds later, but the three gave St. John’s the lead for good.
– In retrospect, getting the No. 5 seed in the Big East tournament could be a blessing in disguise for the Red Storm; as they will be fortunate to pick up the pieces against the winner of a Seton Hall-Rutgers rubber match that is certain to be a war on the Madison Square Garden hardwood.
– For those keeping track of the St. John’s bucket list, beating Syracuse is the only thing that remains unaccomplished by this senior class. If the Johnnies can win on Wednesday, they will face the Orange in the quarterfinals with a shot at redemption hanging in the balance.
– Back to the game at hand, as Sean Evans picks up the unsung hero game ball. With nine points, nine rebounds and a team-high three steals, Evans had by far his most productive game of the season while facilitating the St. John’s transition game that exhibited his one-handed slam that essentially put the icing on the cake in this matchup.
– Finally, our true lasting impression is the one made by Steve Lavin in the final minutes. With the outcome of the game already determined, Lavin substituted his seniors individually in a class act so that each one could get their own special ovation.