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Red Storm feeling pressure of losing
If ever St. John’s wanted to get off to a fast start out of the gate this season, it was Thursday night against Providence at Carnesecca Arena. The Red Storm came into the game off four straight losses to start Big East play, including a blown lead at the end of a loss to so-so DePaul two nights earlier on the road.
But after two opening foul shots by God’sgift Achiuwa, St. John’s got buried in a 14-2 hole as the Friars bombed in three three-pointers and added three foul shots from Bryce Cotton after he was fouled beyond the arc by Red Storm freshman Rysheed Jordan. St. John’s fought back but trailed by 13 points with 2:20 left in the first half.
Finally, JaKarr Sampson scored six of his team-high 16 points in a 10-0 run that lasted into the first part of the second half to make it a game again. The Red Storm ultimately managed to gain the lead near the end of regulation but wound up losing, 84-83, in double overtime to fall to 9-7 overall and 0-5 in the Big East.
“We came out slow,” said Sir’Dominic Pointer, who had 11 points and seven rebounds and made a three-point play that gave the Red Storm a 75-72 lead in the first overtime. “Everybody was so ready to go that we were too anxious. Everybody was uptight. In the second half, we cooled down and got more collected.”
Asked what led to the high anxiety, Pointer said with some emotion, “It’s the losing. Any team that’s 0-4, you’re uptight. At the beginning, we missed shots we normally make.”
To their credit, the Red Storm fought back gamely and held Providence to 36.9 percent shooting while building a 54-28 advantage in points in the paint. They also cut an eight-rebound lead by the Friars at halftime to one by the end. But the Friars scored 10 more points at the foul line and held the Red Storm to 1-of-10 shooting from three-point range.
Most importantly, Providence overcame St. John’s leads of two points at the end of regulation and four points in both overtime periods. Some might wonder why Red Storm freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan was limited to 13 minutes and stayed on the bench for both overtimes.
Jordan got off to a poor start with two fouls in the first four minutes of the game and missed a layup in addition to his three-point foul versus Cotton. He was marginally better in nine second-half minutes with four assists but went scoreless, missing his only two shots.
Coach Steve Lavin stuck with a veteran lineup most of the second half and both overtime periods, and it worked well. “That group brought us back,” Lavin said of the vets. “They had good rhythm and cohesiveness. It’s an experienced group. Rysheed didn’t do anything wrong.”
If there was a time when Lavin might have considered inserting Jordan, it was with 25 seconds left in the second overtime and the Red Storm holding a one-point lead with the ball. But he put in Max Hooper instead, reasoning that he wanted one of his best shooters on the floor.
The only problem was that Hooper had shot four free throws all season, making two, while available guards Jordan and Jamal Branch had combined for 71 free throw attempts and both are better ballhandlers. As it turned out, Hooper caught the inbounds pass, was tied up with the possession arrow pointing to Providence, and the Friars’ Bryce Cotton ultimately scored the winning basket with 9.8 seconds left.
Lavin said the Red Storm played as well in the second half and both overtimes as they have all season. “There wasn’t much I could be critical of in terms of performance,” Lavin said. “This is not the time for beating these kids up. They fought their hearts out.”
That they did, and Pointer said the effort should restore some confidence. “We’re in a slump now,” Pointer said. “We’ve got to find a way to pull ourselves out of it…When we get a win, I think we’ll take off.”