If Norm Roberts' team ever is going to turn the corner to contend in the Big East, the Red Storm has to put together some road wins. The Johnnies had a perfect opportunity tonight at No. 17 Pitt, but a four-point halftime lead turned into a 64-53 loss as none of St. John's starters reached double figures in the scoring column.
The Panthers (16-4, 6-2 Big East) have struggled recently with losses to Georgetown and Seton Hall, the latter of which came at home. They found themselves trailing St. John's 28-24 at halftime, but came back to tie it at 39 and gradually forge a lead. The Red Storm (12-8, 2-6) threatened when Dwight Hardy hit a three-pointer that cut the deficit to 51-48 with 5:35 left to play, but that was the last field goal St. John's made. Pitt went on a 13-5 run to the end of the game, as the Johnnies went 0 for 5 from the field with two turnovers down the stretch with their only points coming at the foul line.
Although St. John's outrebounded Pitt, 37-27, the Panthers' starters outscored their counterparts from St. John's, 50-26. Brad Wanamaker led Pitt with 16 points and six assists and got help from Ashton Gibbs (14 points) and Gary McGhee (10) points. Justin Burrell came off the bench to top St. John's with 14 points and seven rebounds, and Hardy added 12 points in a reserve role but hit only three of 10 shots. D.J. Kennedy was the most productive starter with nine points and eight boards, but he added five turnovers.
Anthony Mason Jr. started but struggled through a 2-for-11 shooting night, totaling only four points. St. John's weakness at point guard was evident again as starter Malik Boothe took no shots and went scoreless in 18 minutes with only two assists. Freshman Malik Stith was scoreless in seven minutes. Hardy, who really is a shooting guard, did most of the ballhandling.
When St. John's won early road games at St. Bonaventure and Temple and beat Siena on a neutral court, it seemed the Storm might be ready to take a step forward on the road. But they've lost five straight road games since the win at Temple. St. John's doesn't play again until Tuesday at Rutgers, which should be the best chance to break into the win column on the road against a team that is 0-8 in Big East play.
If not there, when?