St. John’s flew as high as any team in the country at the start of this month. It ended an 11-game losing streak by stunning then-No. 4 Duke and downed then-No. 1 Villanova on the road to ignite a four-game winning streak. However it was clear Saturday that some air had come out of the Red Storm balloon.
The St. John’s team that few could match for energy and that had been making the big plays down the stretch didn’t have enough of either and ended up losing to Seton Hall, 81-74, in overtime before 18,840 at the Garden. The Storm (14-15, 3-13) has lost two in a row and, with DePaul topping Marquette, is back alone in the Big East cellar.
Seton Hall (20-9, 9-7) was expected to be the drained team in this one. Its Wednesday game at Providence was suspended for unsafe playing conditions — condensation on the floor on top of the arena’s ice rink caused Desi Rodriguez to slip and injure an ankle that kept him out against the Storm — then had to finish that win Thursday. Friday brought the news that former star and current Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead allegedly took money from an agent when he was a freshman. But the Pirates showed grit in earning a third straight 20-win season and becoming a near-certainty to make the NCAA Tournament.
St. John’s trailed by four at the half and five with six minutes left but rallied late to force the overtime.
Shamorie Ponds drove for a layup with 51 seconds left in regulation for a 68-68 tie — the first since 52-52 with 12:14 left — and made both ends of a one-and-one with 16.7 seconds to knot it again at 70. Pirate Myles Powell missed a three-pointer at the regulation buzzer.
Little went well for the Storm in the extra period. Ponds (25 points) made a jumper on its first OT possession and then it closed going 0-for-7 from the floor with only two free throws. Marvin Clark II, who turned in a strong 19-point, 10-rebound performance, committed an ill-advised foul with 1:02 left and still a one-possession game that resulted in two Khadeen Carrington free throws and a 77-72 lead. And finally with the Storm within 77-74, Bashir Ahmed missed the front end of a one-and-one with 28.5 seconds left.
There was plenty of accountability afterward from the Storm.
“I didn’t feel like we played with any pace or any crispness,” coach Chris Mullin said. “It showed more in overtime. It was just a struggle to get them to play with pace and play with some energy. That’s on me. I’ve got that. That is my responsibility.”
Clark said: “I want to take responsibility for that foul. That was a dumb foul. If anything, it gave them the advantage and won them the game. As a team, you have to lock in — at times like that, it’s ‘winning time.’ I’ll be the first to say that foul was dumb. I wasn’t locked in on that.”
Ahmed added 12 points for St. John’s. Carrington had 22 points and Powell 18 as five Pirates finished in double digits.
Mullin was at a loss to explain it, but he felt like his team has not risen to the occasion in two straight games and it concerns him.
“The last two games we’ve been really flat for whatever reason. That kind of bothers me more than anything,” he said. “Mistakes are fine, [missed] free throws, bad fouls, that happens. But to be grateful you’re out there. It’s a 40-minute game: go play.”