As bad as New Year’s Eve was for St. John’s — a blowout loss to Seton Hall in New Jersey — the confounding nature of Tuesday night in Queens might have been worse. St. John’s, which played a nearly flawless first half, completely lost their shooting stroke in the second and fell, 96-85, to Marquette at Carnesecca Arena.
The loss is St. John’s fourth in a row and drops them to 1-4 in the Big East after a strong non-conference showing.
“We don’t like to lose. I don’t think anybody does,” Joel Soriano said. “We’re frustrated, very frustrated. I feel like we’re right there.”
Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper led all scorers with 29 points. Soriano led St. John’s with 22 and Dylan Addae-Wusu had 21.
St. John’s (11-5) shot 66% from the field in the first half and led 48-41, in complete control at times against a Marquette (12-4, 4-1) team that is living on the outskirts of the Top 25. But a 16-2 Marquette run to open the second half stuffed any good vibes that the Red Storm had at the half. St. John’s shot 38% in the second half, a cruel turn of events in a game in which things can go wrong in a hurry.
“We’ve got to be able to score,” coach Mike Anderson said of the Storm’s defense not being able to stop the second-half run. “Our defense was terrible.”
St. John’s showed more life in the final eight minutes. A 9-3 run that was capped by David Jones’ three-pointer and Soriano’s layup cut the Marquette lead to 76-71 with 7:16 left. But Marquette responded with a three from Kam Jones and a layup from Prosper that extended the lead to 81-73 with 6:11 left.
David Jones’ dunk with 3:14 left cut the lead again to 83-79, but Prosper answered with a dunk of his own to push it back to 85-79 with 3:09 left.
St. John’s played the first half like an angry team with something to prove, and for 20 minutes they more than proved it. They came out hot and basically stayed that way. Soriano led all first-half scorers with 16 and Posh Alexander had 10. Soriano scored eight points in the first five minutes as St. John’s opened a 14-9 lead with 14:41 left in the half. Alexander’s three with 12:48 left pushed the lead to 22-15.
Marquette used a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 24-22 with 11:18 left and tied the score at 26 nearly two minutes later, but the Red Storm refused to wilt. Four quick points from Soriano put St. John’s ahead 30-26 with 8:14 left and a slam from the senior gave St. John’s a 36-33 lead with 5:39 left.
After an 11-1 start, St. John’s crashed down to earth once conference play began in mid-December. They lost three straight Big East games, none by fewer than five points. The potential catalyst to a long January or a somewhat quick turn-around came on New Year’s Eve when they lost by 22 to Seton Hall.
Regarding the Storm’s slow start in the Big East, Anderson said, “I thought we’d be a bit further along, to be honest with you.”
The schedule doesn’t ease up either, at least not yet. St. John’s travels to Providence on Saturday. The Friars, who received votes in both the latest polls, are 12-3 and have won all four of their Big East games. They beat Marquette in double overtime two weeks ago.
The storm facing St. John’s shows no sign of clearing. The task in the here and now? Weathering it.
Notes & quotes: Andre Curbelo did not play because of a “team standards” violation, according to reports.