St. John’s put forth a valiant effort in its second meeting against No. 18 Creighton, but that effort seemed irrelevant at a point in the season when wins are a necessity for a team near the bottom of the Big East standings.
Creighton defeated St. John’s, 77-67, at Carnesecca Arena on Saturday night. The Red Storm (16-12, 6-11) fought back from a double-digit halftime deficit but suffered their eighth loss by double-figures this season and are in eighth place in the Big East.
St. John’s performance was slightly overshadowed by what transpired before players took the floor. Andre Curbelo (coach’s decision) missed his third straight game as he took a seat on the bench in street clothes. Rafael Pinzon was noticeably absent from the bench, as it was announced he had been suspended for failing to meet team standards.
In coach Mike Anderson’s postgame news conference, he rejected answering questions regarding Pinzon’s suspension and declined to comment when told that Curbelo told media members before the game that he wasn’t sure why he wasn’t playing.
“Can we keep the questions about the game?” Joel Soriano interjected as Anderson was asked about Curbelo. “What happens with our team stays with our team. If you haven’t noticed, we don’t answer questions from the media about our team.”
Despite the absences, the Red Storm went on a 14-6 run during the first five minutes of the second half to cut their deficit to two. Dylan Addae-Wusu, who scored four of his seven points in the spurt, had a big one-handed slam over 7-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner, which brought the crowd to its feet.
Kolby King finished a fast break with a layup to give the Red Storm a 49-48 lead with 11:53 remaining in the second half. King scored five points in 12 minutes as St. John’s guard depth was tested.
“We got down at half by 10, but we fought tooth and nail to get back,” Anderson said. “We had windows of opportunity to really put ourselves in a position to win the game, we just didn’t take advantage of them.”
St. John’s got back in the game with strong defense as it forced Creighton to miss 13 field-goal attempts in a seven-minute stretch of the second half.
St. John’s trailed 58-57 after a layup by Soriano (15 points) with 6:39 remaining, but the Red Storm went scoreless for the next five minutes as Creighton took a 12-point lead. Arthur Kaluma (13 points) sank three shots from beyond the arc during the stretch.
“We got anxious and tried to make the home run plays when we needed to make three or four passes,” Anderson said. “We had Creighton on their heels.”
Creighton’s dominance in two departments allowed the Bluejays to take a 42-32 lead into halftime. The Bluejays connected on 8 of 19 three-point attempts in the half; the Red Storm hit just one shot from beyond the arc.
Creighton also grabbed seven offensive rebounds, leading to 13 second-chance points, and St. John’s finished the half without an offensive rebound. In the second half, St. John’s allowed four offensive rebounds and held Creighton (18-9, 12-4) to zero second-chance points.
“Second-chance points were big here. They had 13 in the first half,” Anderson said. “True to form, our guys stepped up in the second half and didn’t allow that.”