St. John's squandered 16 points of a 17-point lead over Seton Hall Thursday night at Carnesecca Arena and served up a golden opportunity for the Pirates to pull out the win with a mind-boggling gaffe with 4.9 seconds left.
Sir'Dominic Pointer was under pressure to inbound the ball under Seton Hall's basket and heaved the ball downcourt to no one before Orlando Sanchez caught up and touched it before it went out of bounds.
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Only six-tenths of a second went off the clock. But after catching the inbounds pass, Pirates star Fuquan Edwin ran into Pointer at midcourt and lost the handle and ultimately the game, 77-76, to the Red Storm.
It was the first Big East win for St. John's in six tries (11-8, 1-5), and the pressure certainly showed at the end against Seton Hall (11-8, 2-4).
St. John's took a 74-68 lead on Pointer's layup with 1:10 to play, and it would take about 17 minutes in real time to play those final 70 seconds. Edwin's three-point play with 27 seconds left cut St. John's lead to 76-73 and D'Angelo Harrison missed two foul shots at the 25.7 mark. The Red Storm fouled to prevent a three-point shot, and Seton Hall's Sterling Gibbs made only one of two with 14.2 seconds left. But after Storm freshman Rysheed Jordan made one of two, Gibbs hit two with 4.9 seconds left to cut the Pirates' deficit to one point.
It was in just such a situation against Providence that a botched inbounds play by St. John's gave the Friars the chance to grab an 84-83 win. This time the Storm was out of timeouts, and when no one came open in the backcourt, Pointer threw the ball over the midcourt line as Sanchez gave chase.
Asked what was supposed to happen, St. John's coach Steve Lavin said, "Just get the ball inbounds. We started our cuts at the foul line and ran out of room. We should have started higher. Credit Orlando for tapping it out."
That move allowed six-tenths of a second to run off the clock and, more importantly, meant Seton Hall had to inbound at that end. Pirates coach Kevin Willard said the plan was for Gibbs to take it up the right side and try to drive to the rim, but there was "a little miscommunication between Fuquan and Sterling."
It might never have come to that for St. John's, but JaKarr Sampson, who had 12 of his 16 points in the second half, went to the bench with his fourth foul with 6:14 left. St. John's also got 16 points each from Sanchez and Harrison, 11 from Jamal Branch, who was the catalyst in a 15-2 second-half run, and 10 from Pointer.
"It was not a conventional ballgame by any means," Lavin said, "but given that we were 0-5, we're not going to get caught up in grading it."