St. John's coach Norm Roberts made an impassioned defense of his team after its home loss to Seton Hall on Wednesday. "Stand up! Be a man!" he said when asked about the Red Storm's morale. "We'll get on a plane, go to South Florida and try to make it go our way."
That's exactly what the Red Storm (15-11, 5-9 Big East) did today in a 74-58 victory that was as inspiring as Roberts' postgame remarks following the loss to the Pirates. In the past, it wasn't such a big deal to beat South Florida (16-10, 6-8), but the Bulls had a four-game home winning streak in Big East play and have been threatening to make a run at an at-large berth in the NCAA tourney thanks largely to the efforts of premier scorer Dominque Jones.
But the Johnnies limited Jones to 17 points and forced him into a poor 6-for-18 performance from the field. The Bulls also got 17 points each from Mike Mercer and Chris Howard, but they shot only 41.1 percent from the field compared to 58.7 percent for sizzling St. John's. D.J. Kennedy, who had only two points against Seton Hall, led the bounceback effort by scoring 12 of his 17 points in the second half and making six of eight shots. Paris Horne added 11 points and four assists, and Malik Boothe had 10 points and four assists, and Justin Burrell totaled 10 rebounds to go with his seven points.
St. John's took control with a 12-0 run spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second for a 40-24 lead. The Bulls responded with a 15-3 surge that cut the deficit to four at 43-39, but that was as close as they got the rest of the way.