Photo courtesy of St. John’s University Athletics.
By David Cordova
Sometimes, when things start out good, one never thinks that things will go bad or that the good times will end. In the case of St. John’s, they started off with high hopes and a great momentum, but when conference season came around, all of optimism remained, but the outcome remained different.
In this Tuesday evening game against Creighton, the Red Storm did everything they could to get their first win of Big East play, but unfortunately, it was not to be. Just when it looked like the Red Storm would pull it off, their counterparts stayed strong and walked away from Carnesecca Arena as the victors.
Creighton 68, St. John’s 63
The beginning of the game started out very close as both teams started out shooting poorly. Then both teams started making shots and it looked as if it would be a very close game. Then later on in the first half, Creighton would get seven consecutive points by seniors Toby Hegner (16 points) and Marcus Foster (24 points and eight rebounds) and junior Khyri Thomas (19 points and seven rebounds), which helped propel the Blue Jays to an 18-13 lead with 7:39 to go.
Moments later, the Blue Jays would stretch the lead to nine, 24-15, after a basket by freshman Mitch Ballock (2 points) with 5:09 to go. St. John’s struggled at that time to make shots and was at one point shooting as 9% from the field in the game.
The shooting of Hegner helped Creighton get up by as much as fifteen, 36-21, with 1:55 to go. But then St. John’s would finish off the half strong with two straight baskets by sophomore Shamorie Ponds (7 points), which cut the deficit to 36-25 with 1:07 to go. That would be the last basket scored before both teams went into halftime.
The second half would start off where the Blue Jays left off with Hegner making a three to bring them up by fourteen, 39-25, with 19:47 to go. Then after that, the momentum swung to the Red Storm’s side.
With clutch baskets by sophomore Justin Simon (17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists) and clutch free throws being made by senior Bashir Ahmed (11 points) and junior Tariq Owens (14 points), St. John’s would get to within seven multiple times in the second half. What also helped the Red Storm get back in the game was Creighton’s carelessness with the ball, as they would have 16 turnovers throughout the game.
But on the other end, Thomas would continue to dominate scoring-wise for the Blue Jays as they would continue to maintain the lead. However, the Red Storm would go on a run in which they would get as close as four, 65-61, after a layup by Ahmed, with 38.8 seconds left. Simon would even make a layup with 15 seconds to get them within 66-63. But then Creighton sophomore Davon Mintz (4 points) would make the two crucial free throws that would put the Red Storm and the game away.
Although it was a strong effort, it was another effort that amounted to a loss.
“We came into this year strong. We lost one of our best point guards [Marcus LoVett] that kind of hindered us a little bit, but at the end of the day, we have faith in the guys that we have. We have proven we can keep up and we can hang in the game, so it’s just a simple fact that we are shorthanded. With guys having to play more minutes, you still have to lock in mentally, that’s what it comes down to and that’s what we have to do.” said Owens.
Even though their record is where it is, Coach Mullin continues to remain optimistic. When asked if this year’s team has any similarities to the team from two years ago, Mullin replied, “I just told them in the locker room, that second half was a great effort. We have to play 40 minutes though. We don’t have the ability to play 20, 30, or 35 minutes. We have to play 40 minutes. No one wants to win more and no one is more competitive than the guys in the locker room and myself. The record, we don’t like it at all, we hate it. I do think how we handle it is important. I told them that you can lose games, but you’re not a loser if you approach it the right way. You hold yourself accountable, you make changes, you keep coming out and fighting, you have personal pride, and that’s how things change. We all have a personal timeline of how we want our life to go, and how we want the season to go. When it doesn’t go our way or on our time schedule, the easy thing to do is blame, give up, point fingers, and that’s not happening. We’re not doing that. That’s not how I operate, and that’s not how my players operate. We will stay together as a group, work through this, hold our head high, compete, run through any obstacle, grab it by the neck, and do whatever we have to do to change this. That’s where our focus is.”
Of all of the losses they had, they lost by less than seven points. “Actually, we talked about that yesterday. We have six losses by 5.3 points, and tonight we lost by five. They are all different. They’re not grouped into one reason. Like tonight, if you look at the stat sheet, the biggest difference was made threes. That’s something we work on every day. I thought we got some good looks at the right time; we just didn’t knock them down. That’s part of the game. You make some, you miss some. We haven’t made them at the right time yet. Like I said, it’s not going to deter from our determination or our commitment.” said Mullin.
The rest of the season will be long for the Red Storm, but there’s still a chance that a win will happen. There are just ten more games in the regular season, including games against Duke at Madison Square Garden on February 3rd and a rematch against Villanova on the road in Philadelphia on February 7th. But just like the Mets rallying cry, you just gotta believe that St. John’s will get another win.