St. John's center Joel Soriano looks to score while defended...

St. John's center Joel Soriano looks to score while defended by Boston College forward Quinten Post and guard Donald Hand Jr. during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase on Sunday. Credit: AP/John Jones

Perhaps it is too early in the college basketball season to call something a crisis. However, St. John’s certainly is standing at a crossroads right now. And after the Red Storm let a 10-point lead get away and lost to Boston College on Sunday, coach Rick Pitino questioned his team’s effort for the first time.

Pitino left no doubt about his level of disappointment after the Red Storm’s 86-80 non-conference loss in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase at Barclays Center. The loss snapped their winning streak at four games.

Pitino called his team’s half-court defense “abominable,” said the players “don’t absorb scouting” and added that they didn’t follow in-game instruction.

“It’s very disappointing — as disappointing a loss as I’ve had — not because of the score [and] not because of losing. It’s the way we’re losing,” Pitino said. “Every one of my teams have been great defensive teams with extraordinary effort, and these guys just want to score the ball. And unfortunately, if you do that, you’re not going to be a great basketball team. [We] have good enough athletes, but defense is a matter of will. You’ve got to want to play defense.”

St. John’s (6-3) was fortunate to trail by only two points at halftime after allowing the Eagles (8-3) to turn eight offensive rebounds into 15 points and get 18 layup attempts in the first 20 minutes. But Joel Soriano had eight of his 21 points in a 14-0 burst, and St. John’s went up 52-42 when he dunked off a pass from Daniss Jenkins with 14:55 to play, prompting a BC timeout.

Boston College immediately answered with a 19-4 run that included three three-pointers. The Eagles went up 61-56 when Prince Aligbe swiped a cross-court pass by Brady Dunlap and took it for a dunk with 10:22 left.

“Coming out of the timeout, I just said, ‘Look, they’re going to come with threes,’ ” Pitino said. “ ‘We’ve got to stop the three and get out, get your hands active.’ And [BC] made three threes in a row . . . We are not going to win until we get committed to defense, and this group is not.”

St. John’s responded with a 10-0 run for a 66-61 edge with 7:56 left but began to pile up fouls while trying to defend in the halfcourt. Jenkins went to the bench with four fouls with 7:15 to play, and

Pitino likened the Red Storm to “a ship without a captain when he goes out of the game.” He added, “He gives 100% effort on defense.”

St. John’s got within 71-70 on Soriano’s layup with 4:25 left, but BC scored on eight of its last nine possessions, twice going ahead by nine.

Chris Ledlum finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Jenkins had 10 points, eight assists and no turnovers for St. John’s. Jordan Dingle (3-for-15 shooting) and Glenn Taylor Jr. added 10 points each. BC 7-footer Quinten Post had 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists and Jaeden Zackert added 14 points.

BC coach Earl Grant said the key to all of the Eagles' halfcourt scoring was “playing breakdown basketball.”

“We have experience playing together,'' he added, "and that helped.” 

Said Pitino: “We’re pressing like I want most of the time, but the halfcourt defense is just abominable — just abominable — such a disappointment. They don’t absorb scouting is the biggest issue . . . It’s paying attention to the scouting details.”

He added, “It’s partially our fault. We recruited offensive basketball players, trying to teach 23-year-olds about defense, and it cost us tonight . . . We’ve got people that have not guarded in their lives and they’re being expected to defend rather than just score. It’s very difficult on them.”

Perhaps the stark criticism was meant to inspire a response from his players.

“Hopefully by Big East time, they’re going to learn, but they’re not going to win playing this type of defense,'' Pitino said. "I don’t care what they shoot the basketball, they’re not going to win.”

Storm women win. Unique Drake scored 16 points, Skye Owen had 14 and BerNyah Mayo added 11 as the St. John’s women defeated Rhode Island, 55-44, at Carnesecca Arena.

The Red Storm (5-6) outscored the Rams 23-12 in the final quarter. Rhode Island is 6-5.

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