St. John's goes cold in loss to Louisville
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The lessons St. John's young basketball team is learning now while attempting to handle Big East competition with a seven-man rotation that includes six new recruits are hard ones. But Louisville coach Rick Pitino swears the Red Storm has a bright future because of the talent on hand.
"I've never seen this much youth on a basketball team," Pitino said. "Their future is bright."
It might be, but first, they have to survive the present.
It doesn't get much rougher than St. John's first half of a 73-58 loss to the No. 10 Cardinals Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. St. John's shot 14.3 percent from the field, making just 5 of 35 shots.
"It was real hard," said freshman Moe Harkless, who had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks. "It's definitely very frustrating. We have to keep working. We've got to do a better job of getting to the rim."
Louisville (13-2, 1-1 Big East) got double-figures scoring from Russ Smith (17 points), Kyle Kuric (15) and Gorgui Dieng (12, 9 rebounds, 7 blocks). D'Angelo Harrison led St. John's (7-7, 1-2) with 24 points and eight rebounds.
As if making the transition to major college basketball in the toughest conference in the country isn't hard enough, the degree of difficulty has been multiplied by the absence of coach Steve Lavin, who is recuperating from prostate cancer surgery.
"I'll be going back on the road to recruit Thursday, so this was an opportunity on the calendar to attend a game and support the team," Lavin said in a statement issued by the school. "I will continue a modified schedule with duties that include being at practices, recruiting the 2012 class and attending certain games."
There was no mention of any imminent return to the bench. For now, assistant coach Mike Dunlap remains on the firing line running St. John's young, shorthanded squad.
What Lavin witnessed was an epic outbreak of awful shooting. After St. John's took an early 8-2 lead on a three by Harrison at the 16:28 mark, the Red Storm made only one of its next 27 shots and committed seven turnovers before God'sgift Achiuwa scored on a putback with 25 seconds left to cut the halftime deficit to 29-18. That was the Storm's first field goal in 9:57 against the Cardinals' pressing defense.
"The press turns you over; it takes your legs out from your shooting," Pitino said. "We know they had a short bench and were young, so we wanted to exploit that."
Under the circumstances, Dunlap was pleased St. John's played defense well enough to be down only 11 at halftime. In the second half, Louisville's lead reached 26, but St. John's put together an 11-0 run that began with a Harrison jumper and dunks by Harkless, Sir'Dominic Pointer and Achiuwa.
"We came out of a timeout and, in one minute, got eight points," Dunlap said. "The attitude of the players is good. They could have let go of the rope, and it would have been a 30-point game."