St. John's eliminated from NIT

Virginia's Akil Mitchell, right, and teammate Jontel Evans, Virginia's Akil Mitchell, right, and teammate Jontel Evans, left, battle for possession against St. John's Chris Obekpa during an NIT game in Charlottesville, Va. (March 24, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- After escaping Philadelphia with a two-point win over Saint Joseph's last Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT, coach Steve Lavin and St. John's knew Sunday's second-round game against Virginia would be a challenge in many ways.

He was right.

Travel problems over the weekend that forced Lavin's team to stay in Richmond and practice at VCU, along with an 11 a.m. start, were just a handful of things that factored into the Red Storm bowing out of the NIT with a 68-50 loss to Virginia.

"No real surprise in terms of our knowledge coming into the game that Virginia was an NCAA Tournament-caliber team," Lavin said. "They just happened to be playing in the NIT, and I think we saw today that they were that caliber of a team."

The environment at John Paul Jones Arena -- a hostile one by NIT standards -- didn't faze the young St. John's team from the start as they got out to an 8-4 lead.

Unfortunately for the Red Storm, the Cavaliers (23-11) went on a 20-3 run to go ahead 24-11 with 5:49 left in the first half, a deficit that proved to be too much for St. John's to overcome.

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"It was a game that was kind of disjointed," Lavin said. "It didn't feel like either team found a great rhythm. Ultimately, they had more runs than we did."

The Red Storm would cut Virginia's lead to 24-18 late in the first half before the Cavaliers opened it back up to 32-21 at the half.

St. John's (17-16) found itself in foul trouble for a majority of the game as JaKarr Sampson, Sir'Dominic Pointer and Chris Obekpa were plagued with four fouls for almost the entire second half. Obekpa eventually fouled out late.

Pointer, the hero in Tuesday's win over Saint Joseph's, was held to four points on 2-for-7 shooting.

Eight was as close as St. John's would get before UVa pulled away with the 18-point win after shooting 54 percent from the field.

Freshmen led the way for Virginia as Justin Anderson scored 18 points and Taylor Barnette put in a career-high 13.

The Red Storm shot just 34 percent.

Phil Greene led St. John's with 18 points and Sampson added 14.

"Now we get ready for next season," Lavin said. "We've got our spring workouts, our summer workouts and foreign tour, and return next season with 100 percent of our roster."

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