Last season's Big East tournament ended for St. John's with a humbling 29-point loss to Marquette. The Red Storm hasn't forgotten that sour ending, and their 63-61 overtime loss to the Golden Eagles at home two weeks ago stung nearly as much.
So, as happy as the Johnnies were after romping past Connecticut, 73-51, in the first round, they quickly took aim at Marquette in a second-round game scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. "We can't celebrate on this win," point guard Malik Boothe said of the UConn game. "Last year, we were in the same position going against the same team in the next round, and they pretty much had their way with us. We have to have the same focus [in the second round]."
Coach Norm Roberts said it will be important to control Eagles forward Lazar Hayward and to rebound. But most of all, St. John's has to make the kind of second- and third-effort plays it did against UConn. If the Storm can do that, they have a chance to make a run in the tournament.
"We're totally capable of playing good against every team and beating every team in the league," Roberts said. "We've played with every team in the league except for Syracuse. But we've been in pretty much every game this year. We've just got to lock in and focus. It's a new season, and anything can happen."
For much of this season, St. John's struggled to finish games it led against good teams, but the Red Storm apparently gained considerable confidence from the way they fought back from a 20-point deficit in the regular-season finale against a bad DePaul team in Chicago.
"I think we took a lot out of the DePaul ballgame," said forward Sean Evans, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds against UConn. "We showed a lot of toughness and togetherness to be down that many points and come back to win a tough game. That shows a lot about our team, our character and our leaders. I think that carried over.
D.J. Kennedy also said the second half comeback at DePaul taught the Red Storm something about themselves. "We definitely feel like we can play with any team we've seen throughout the year," Kennedy said. "We've got a lot of confidence right now."