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Creighton, Justin Patton bring St. John’s down to earth

Justin Patton #23 of the Creighton Bluejays is

Justin Patton #23 of the Creighton Bluejays is defended by Kassoum Yakwe #14 of the St. John's Red Storm during an NCAA basketball game at Carnesecca Arena in Queens, New York on Wednesday, January 4, 2017. Credit: Steven Ryan

It was a nice two weeks for St. John’s and its fans. The Red Storm closed non-conference play by spanking Syracuse and opened its Big East slate by shocking then No. 13 Butler and beating DePaul on the road. Dreams of a return to glory — or at least a run at the NCAA Tournament — were forming.

No. 10 Creighton played the role of alarm clock on Wednesday night. The Bluejays and 7-footer Justin Patton ended the reverie for now and sent St. John’s crashing back to earth with an 85-72 Big East defeat that really wasn’t all that competitive.

“I was scared to death of this game,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “Anyone who watched their Syracuse game was scared because that was a heck of a performance . . . and they just beat Butler. So it was a team that was learning how to win, very confident in what they were doing.”

Creighton (14-1, 2-1) reminded St. John’s, the 4,928 at Carnesecca Arena and a national television audience that the Red Storm is still quite a ways off from consistently competing with the conference’s elite. The recent high profile wins aside, this remains the team that somehow lost games to Delaware State and LIU Brooklyn.

“The games we won . . . it didn’t just happen,” Storm coach Chris Mullin said. “We made it happen. It’s something you have to go out and do. They thought they were just going to stumble into it. That’s never the case.”

St. John’s (8-8, 2-1) didn’t have the intensity of the previous two weeks and it showed as they fell back early. Creighton, coming off a loss to Villanova that was its first blemish, went on an 18-5 run for a 31-16 lead and closed the half on an 11-2 burst for a 44-26 lead at the break. Patton had five points in the first runs and seven in the second en route to a career-best 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting to go with nine rebounds and four assists; he scored on dunks, an array of low post moves and even a three-pointer.

“That’s a tough task,” Marcus Lovett said. “He has multiple moves and . . . we didn’t have an answer.

“He reminds me of Marcus Camby — has great hands and even banged a three,” Mullin said of the redshirt freshman.

In the second half, after quickly going down 50-26, St. John’s tried to make it interesting. It had the crowd roaring as it scrapped back to within 63-55 on a LoVett driving layup with 6:17 left. But the Storm got no closer.

“It was a good thing we had that big lead because we knew they were going to make a run,” McDermott said.

Lovett finished with 23 points and Shamorie Ponds had 17 points for St. John’s; Those two and Patton are currently on track for the Big East’s all-Rookie team. But the Storm shot 39 percent from the floor — Mullin said “you don’t win that way” — and gave up 15 second-chance points.

Maurice Watson Jr. had 19 points and Marcus Foster 15 for the Bluejays.

“I didn’t think our disposition was good. We didn’t really put any kind of imprint on the game,” Mullin said. “They took control of the game from the start. They did what they wanted to do.”


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