Johnnies crush Duke at sold out Garden

Some Red Storm fans got to storm the court following St. John’s commanding victory over defending national champion and third-ranked Duke Blue Devils.
In front of a loud, sold out Garden, St. John’s (12-8) dominated in a 93-78 win, never letting the game get closer than 11 points in the second.
Duke (19-2) was never able to get comfortable thanks to St. John’s press that helped cause 11 first half turnovers leading to 21 points and helped St. John’s build a 20 point halftime lead.
“We recommitted ourselves in practice in preparation for this game against Duke to ball pressure,” said St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin. “And that aggressiveness is a good thing for our team.”
On Saturday, Lavin and his players spoke about the aggressive practices they had leading up to the Duke game that left some players with fat lips. They brought the same intensity to their game against Duke, getting into multiple skirmishes and twice drawing double technicals.
“These last two days, if you look around our team we all have fat lips, scratched eyes, a couple ankles swollen, but at the end of the day we were back there at practice fighting and that’s what we came out and did today,” said senior forward Justin Burrell.
The Johnnies shot over 57 percent in each half by getting to the basket with drives and hitting cutters slicing through the defense, leading to 50 points in the paint. On the other side, a 40 percent three point shooting team coming into the game, the Blue Devils came out cold, hitting only one of their first 21 from beyond the arc.
Dwight Hardy led the Johnnies with 26, his second highest scoring game of the year and the best he’s played since he was named Big East player of the week last month. His struggles coincided with the Johnnies losing five of their last six.
This marks the biggest win for the 10 seniors on this team and the biggest win for the school in even longer.
The sold out crowd fed off the Johnnies on court intensity bringing an energy that gave the game a postseason-like buzz. St. John’s last Garden sell out was eight years ago, and was also the last time they defeated Duke.
This is the third ranked opponent the Johnnies have beaten this year, the first time they’ve done that since 2001-02, the last season they made the NCAA tournament.
The Johnnies are now done with their stretch of playing eight straight ranked teams, a stretch that Lavin called one of the toughest he’s ever seen.
“I’ve had teams that have played 12 top 25 opponents stretched out, but the odds of drawing eight consecutive, from a mathematical probability, it’s got to be one in a zillion,” said Lavin.
After watching game tape of their previous game against Georgetown, Hardy said they looked like “zombies” telling some teammates they had to take ownership of their season if they wanted a chance at the tournament. Sunday, they took their first step towards that goal.

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