Life in the big leagues hasn't been easy for St. John's seven-man band of brothers. The Red Storm got roughed up pretty badly by No. 1 Kentucky, 81-59, Thursday night at Rupp Arena to fall to 4-4 for the season.
Trying to get by with a 6-man recruiting class plus holdover veteran Malik Stith has left the Red Storm outmanned against quality competition. But one of the three recruits who failed to gain admission for the fall semester appears to be getting closer to joining St. John's.
Amir Garrett, a 6-7 wing man who is playing at Bridgton Academy in Maine, reportedly tweeted during the game that he expects to be admitted for the second semester. Coaches, players and school personnel aren't permitted to mention players who aren't yet enrolled at school, but one Red Storm player inadvertently made reference to Garrett joining the team soon.
St. John's can use all the help it can get, and Garrett would add some size. As Kentucky coach John Calipari said, "When they add guys that can give them some shooting, maybe some driving ability, I think you're going to see a different team. They played us as well as anybody has played us. They really did."
The Red Storm held Kentucky to 40.6 percent shooting from the field, and they lost the rebounding battle by a respectable 48-43 margin. They tried to slow the game down in the first half with a disciplined approach to shot selection and wound up committing five shot-clock turnovers because they couldn't get their shot as the clock wound down.
From a positive standpoint, St. John's two big men, God'sgift Achiuwa (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Moe Harkless (16-10), each had a double-double. And both of them showed toughness in the way they fought under the boards with a much bigger Kentucky team led by 6-10 Anthony Davis (15-15-8 blocks) and 6-9 Terrence Jones (26-9-4 blocks).
"I think we played pretty tough," said Harkless, who is pictured trying to guard Kentucky's Davis. "Anthony Davis was really long. We didn't stick with the scouting report and try to get him off his feet. We kept going straight up against him. We had some spurts where we played well, but we have to not let the ball get into the middle. That's how they got the lobs."
For dunks, Harkless meant. Davis, Jones, and Darius Miller had a veritable parade of spectacular dunks for the Wildcats, many of which came off lob passes. To the Red Storm's credit, they played hard right up until the end.
"I think we've got to pull together," D'Angelo Harrison said. "It was a battle, and we did a good job. God'sgift did a good job in the paint. We've got to bounce back Monday [at Detroit Mercy]."
Nurideen Lindsey, who struggled more than anyone, scoring only one point and taking just three shots, admitted the reality that the Red Storm is outmanned by the better teams. "It's a tough situation, but we work hard and we play extremely hard. Some people may not see it, but I think we're getting better. Tonight, we got a test for what we're going to face the rest of the season."
As Lindsey said, it only can help the Red Storm prepare for the Big East wars.