With everything on the line, St. John’s reached down and found the best six minutes it has played to extend the season for at least one more night.
The ninth-seeded Red Storm roared back from a 10-point deficit with 6:13 left to play and scored the final 23 points of the game to take down No. 8 Georgetown 75-62 in a Big East first-round game on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Marcellus Earlington had 11 of his 19 points and LJ Figueroa had six of his 22 points as St. John’s shook off what had been a horrendous shooting night with the late blitz of the Hoyas. The Red Storm were 19-for-60 from the floor when it trailed 62-52 on Terrell Allen’s drive. It made seven of its last nine shots, including two threes apiece by Earlington and Figueroa.
“We just go out there and play as hard as we can — I honestly don’t think anybody on the court knew we were on a 23-0 run,” Figueroa said. “It felt fun and, you know, that’s how it’s supposed to.”
“It was a great feeling,” Earlington said. “I work on my shot every day so, it didn’t surprise me and my team did a good job finding me.”
The Red Storm (17-15) might finally be having its moment this season. It advances to the quarterfinals for the 26th time and will meet top-seeded and seventh-ranked Creighton (24-7) on Thursday at noon. St. John’s dismantled the Bluejays 91-71, on March 1 at Carnesecca Arena and they will be without second-leading scorer Marcus Zegarowski, who is out with a knee injury.
“I feel like, as a team, we feel like we could beat anybody in the country,” Earlington said. “And we just have to build off this with the momentum. Here we go. Come on and play the style of basketball that we were playing all year and if the outcome is a win than it’s a win.”
St. John’s may not have been making its shots, but it was forcing a Hoya team that was reduced by transfers and injuries to just a six-man rotation to exert itself all through the second half. Storm coach Mike Anderson believes that St. John’s aggressive style of play ultimately allowed for the Storm to get more open looks.
“Fatigue was definitely a factor in this game,” he said. “I thought they wore down at the end.”
St. John’s closed the gap to 62-60 on Earlington’s three-pointer with 4:15 to play and, after a Hoya turnover, appeared to have the game tied as Figueroa dunked a follow; the basket never went on the board though because of a basket interference call.
The Storm tied the score on its next possession on Earlington’s layup with 3:10 left and the Storm scored on every possession it had the rest of the way. It got the lead on Earlington’s three-pointer and brought the house down on what might be the last crowd of the college basketball season when Figueroa hit a trey falling out of bounds with 1:23 left for a 70-62 lead.
Earlington also had 10 rebounds and Rasheem Dunn five assists for St. John’s, which got 20 points off 21 Hoya turnovers.
Allen had 21 points (18 in the first half) and Jamorko Pickett had 13 points for the Hoyas (15-17).
St. John’s poor shooting began to drag it down during the first half, which ended with the Hoyas ahead 42-33, its largest lead of the game to that point.
In all the Storm shot 35 percent from the floor in those first 20 minutes and was 2-for-13 on three-point attempts.
DePaul 71, Xavier 67: In another first-round game, Paul Reed scored 23 points to lead DePaul (16-16). Xavier is 19-13.