Daniss Jenkins #5 of St. John's reacts after hitting a...

Daniss Jenkins #5 of St. John's reacts after hitting a three point shot during the second half against Creighton at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

St. John’s NCAA Tournament dream may not be dead just yet.

The Red Storm may have cracked the door open a bit on getting back into the Big Dance conversation by finally scoring a signature win. The Red Storm turned in its best all-around performance of the season and stunned No. 15 Creighton with an 80-66 Big East win before a raucous crowd of 12,602 at the Garden.

The Red Storm (16-12, 8-9) had been 0-5 against nationally ranked teams and over a 2-8 stretch seemingly played their way out of the NCAA Tournament picture. A loss last weekend against visiting Seton Hall was devastating. But if St. John’s can score a valuable road victory Wednesday at Butler, close out the regular season with wins against DePaul and Georgetown to get to 11-9 in the conference, they could win their way into an at-large bid in the field of 68.

“It’s really hard when the season is going like this and you hear all the negativity and ‘oh we’re not going to make the tournament’ and things like that,” said Daniss Jenkins, who had a season-best 27 points, including 15 in the second half when Creighton (20-8, 11-6) made several runs.

“It’s really easy to go the other way. We said basically it was a pride game. We have to stand up, show what we’re made of and show our true character. It was really fun to see that.”

Rick Pitino, who joined the crowd effort to “white-out” the Garden with a white Armani suit over a white shirt with white shoes — something that delighted his players and the fans alike — called the game “no question” the Red Storm’s best of the season.

“Do I think we can continue? I think we learned a lot tonight,” Pitino said. “[That was] what great basketball looks like and if you try to emulate great basketball, you’ll bring it again. Is it too late? Who knows? We’ve always had a good NET [ranking] and we beat a really good basketball team tonight.”

Bluejays coach Greg McDermott was asked if St. John’s looks like an NCAA team and replied, “They did tonight . . . They can beat anybody on any given night.”

The Red Storm had 24 assists on 34 baskets and committed only three turnovers. It held Creighton to 6-for-26 shooting on three-pointers and only let the Bluejays take 12 free throws.

St. John’s broke from the losing script it has used too often, where it gave back momentum at the end of the first half and then the lead in the second half before falling. The Storm accelerated into halftime with a 17-4 run for a 41-28 lead and when the Bluejays mounted comebacks — Creighton got it down to seven points four times and five twice — they answered.

After Creighton got the margin to 57-52, the Storm went on a 15-4 burst where Jenkins and Jordan Dingle scored all 15 points.

“It’s about time,” Dingle said of getting a high-profile win. “I think that the magnitude of this game was something . . . in the back of all of our minds but, more prominently, how [Pitino] says every day ‘nothing changes if nothing changes’. So we locked down on all the little things that translate to winning.”

St. John’s had standouts throughout the roster. Jenkins was 12-for-18 shooting and had six assists and two blocked shots. Dingle had 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting, Joel Soriano had 12 points and made four free throws in the last minute.

Glenn Taylor Jr. had his best game of the season with 10 rebounds, six assists and great defense for the Storm. He was largely responsible for holding leading scorer Baylor Scheierman to 4-for-16 shooting. Freshman guard Simeon Wilcher was a spark off the bench with six points.

Trey Alexander had 31 points and Ryan Kalkbrenner had 12 points and 10 boards for the Bluejays.

“We played well at both ends of the floor and we kept trying to push it and win the game, not be afraid to lose the game,” Pitino said. He added that his second-half message was “Don’t look at the scoreboard — keep pushing, keep pushing.”

“In those games when we lost in the second half, we were playing not to lose, like scared to win the game,” Jenkins said. “It’s like a lot of pressure on every shot. A lot of pressure on [every] defensive possession. A lot of pressure. It’s just thinking too much and worrying about the score.

“I didn’t look at the scoreboard [once] in the second half.”

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