By Anthony Bosco
The day before the Red Storm lost for only the second time this season, falling to the George Washington Colonials, 85-75, in a game as ugly as any in recent St. John's history.
Playing against the team Mike Jarvis coached before coming to Jamaica, the Red Storm showed little offensive continuity and a porous defense that was eaten up by GW's SirValiant Brown. Brown, who set a tournament record with 32 points in the game, at times single-handedly dominated the Johnnies.
Brown was also at the center of the day's controversy. After driving to the St. John's basket for two midway through the second half, Brown came down on top of St. John's center Mohamed Diakite, who was playing in his first game of the year. The two came down wrestling, with Brown popping up and advancing toward the still down Diakite. Diakite swung out his right arm, catching Brown on the side of the head.
The two were separated and Diakite was called for an intentional foul, of which Brown hit 1-of-2 from the line to give GW a 54-42 lead.
Moments later, while play was stopped, St. John's forward Reggie Jessie appeared to strike Brown in the groin while walking past him. Brown crumpled to the floor, but did get back up to lead GW down the stretch.
With the contest more physical than ever, St. John's simply could not get back into the game. Looking disoriented on offense and slow on defense, the Red Storm fell behind 73-56 following a 9-0 Colonials' run with about four minutes remaining in regulation.
St. John's got as close as seven points in the final minute, but GW made clutch free throws down the stretch to close out the upset win.
As a team the Red Storm shot a dismal 38 percent from the field and made 8-of-13 free throws. St. John's did not go to the foul line until the second half, while the Colonials hit on 26-of-39 charity stripe opportunities.
Omar Cook led the Red Storm with 21 points and seven assists, followed by Anthony Glover with 16 points, nine rebounds and five steals and Willie Shaw with 15 points and five steals.
For a while in the consolation game the following day, St. John's looked as though it would return to New York without a win, but solid play in the waning moments of the game along with some stellar outside shooting by Shaw sealed the win for the Red Storm.
Michigan led by as much as 11 in the first half, as again St. John's struggled to get into an offensive flow early in the game. Several line-up changes finally produced results, and the Red Storm began to surge as the half drew to a close.
It was Jessie who gave his team the lead just before halftime. Cook tied the game at 34 on a sweet drive and bucket with two seconds remaining. A careless inbound by Michigan was stolen by Jessie under the basket, which he promptly laid in for two just before the buzzer, making the score 36-34 in St. John's favor.
“It took us a day and a half to get a lead, and when we finally got it I didn't want to lose it,” said St. John's coach Mike Jarvis.
The game remained tight in the second half until St. John's began to pull away in the final minutes. Up by one, 66-65, Glover and Jessie hit short shots and Cook nailed a trey to give the Johnnies a 73-67 advantage.
Glover was the high man against Michigan scoring 27 points, mostly on the interior against his taller Michigan counterparts. Cook followed with 20 points and eight assists, Shaw added 19 points, including 5-of-7 from behind the arc, and Jessie scored 19 with nine rebounds.
“I was hot,” Glover said. “There are a few guys who are leaders on this team, and I'm trying to be one of them.”
All in all the consolation game was a much better outing for St. John's, though it came against a sub-par Michigan unit. The team shot 53 percent from the field and was 5- percent from three, hitting 7-of-14.
“I'll go home feeling some very positive things about my team,” Jarvis said after the win.
Notes: Next up for St. John's will be the much-improved Fordham Rams team at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at Madison Square Garden. The team will then travel to take on nemesis Ohio State on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m.