St. John's can't overcome Baylor's size
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CHARLESTON, S.C. — St. John's coach Steve Lavin didn't like that his team got outmuscled underneath by No. 16 Baylor's tall, strong frontline.
The good news, Lavin said, was the Red Storm won't likely see a team that tall and deep the rest of the season.
The Bears' big men of 7-foot-1 Isaiah Austin and 6-9 Cory Jefferson each posted double doubles and Brady Heslip had a career-high 29 points in the 97-78 victory Sunday night at the Charleston Classic.
Lavin knew coming in his team would have a big challenge ahead.
"But then they start running down the floor and it's one 7-footer after another 7-footer after another 7-footer," he said.
When St. John's (2-2) tried to defend the middle, it opened up Baylor's perimeter game for Heslip to hit eight 3-pointers and star guard Pierre Jackson added 19 points and eight assists.
Austin, Jefferson and 6-8 backup Rico Gathers combined to go 15 of 27, most from way in close. "They were making zero footers," Lavin said.
The trio also helped Baylor to double up St. John's in rebounding, 41-20.
Still, Lavin was pleased with his team's development on the trip South. The Red Storm opened the season last Tuesday and Baylor marked their fourth game in six days.
"We're going to take some hits," he said. "But I'm very encouraged."
Baylor coach Scott Drew said his untested forwards haven't come close to what they might eventually accomplish.
"I think they've done a good job up until now, but I think we'll get much better as the season goes on," he said.
Combine that with Baylor's experience in the backcourt and it could mean another deep NCAA tournament run.
He needn't have worried as Heslip took over from outside and Austin and Jefferson controlled the middle.
Heslip's seventh 3-pointer put Baylor up for good at 69-66 with 9:36 to play. The Red Storm (2-2) closed to 73-72 on Phil Greene's basket with 6:40 remaining, but Jefferson hit two foul shots and Baylor star Pierre Jackson scored five straight points.
Phil Greene had 24 points and D'Angelo Harrison 20 for St. John's.
Jackson was the fourth Bears player in double figures with 19 points. Jackson's backcourt partner A.J. Walton had the job of guarding Harrison and made it difficult for the Red Storm to find their leading scorer.
Harrison had six 3-pointers, but took only seven shots in the first 35 minutes. He did not start the game after he was late for a team bus this weekend.
Walton finished with a game-high 10 assists.
Still, this was a five-point game when Harrison's sixth 3-pointer cut Baylor's lead to 82-77. Walton, though, followed with a three-point play and Baylor closed things out.
Lavin was encouraged how his young team hung with the much taller Bears most of the way.
Lavin said he kept looking over to assistant Rico Hines and saying, "Man, those guys are big."
Baylor and St. John's both came off disappointing losses that kept them from the championship game.
The Bears, matched up against a Colorado team they ousted from last year's NCAA tournament, fell behind right before the break and could never catch up in a 60-58 loss.
The Red Storm led Murray State by seven points midway through the second half, then watched the Racers take off on a 12-0 run to move in front and hold on for 72-67 victory.
Jefferson had nine of his team's first 16 points, all down low and several off Bears misses.
Newcomer Marc-Antoine Bourgault got the start in place of Harrison. Once Harrison entered, though, he instantly perked up the Red Storm offense. Harrison hit three straight 3s as St. John's went on a 19-6 run to move in front 28-19 with eight minutes left in the period. Baylor answered with a 15-0 run to regain control.