By Laura Amato
It was a game of almosts.
The ball almost went in, the rally almost worked, the momentum almost changed. Almost, however, doesn’t win basketball games.
The St. John’s men’s basketball team dropped an 85-72 showing to No. 10 Creighton at Carnesecca Arena, snapping a three-game winning streak and bringing the Red Storm back down to Earth after a streak of surprising success.
“I didn’t like our overall energy,” Red Storm coach Chris Mullin said. “It felt like we were in slow motion. We tried, we hung in there. But we dug such a big hole and gave them their confidence.”
St. John’s (8-8, 2-1) held its own in the opening minutes of the Big East tilt, but Creighton’s size and physicality in the paint – driving the lane and breezing past the Red Storm’s front court – turned the tide. The Blue Jays racked up a handful of double-digit runs over the first 20 minutes, outscoring St. John’s 28-6 in the paint.
“We weren’t communicating and that’s why they were able to get those big runs,” said Marcus LoVett, who finished with a team-high 23 points. “It felt like if we would have been able to talk more, we would have been able to get to those certain spots to contain them.”
The Red Storm couldn’t buy a bucket late in the first half, struggling from just about eveywhere on the court. St. John’s shot just 31.6 percent in the first 20 minutes and did not attempt a single free throw.
“I was scared to death of this game and fortunately our guys were really good defenisvely the first half,” Blue Jays coach Greg McDermott said. “I thought the shots they made were challenged shots.”
Creighton pushed the lead to 24 early in the second half – opening with a six-point run – but the Red Storm did their best to rally. St. John’s managed to drive the ball into the lane after the break, by pushing the tempo, which eventually drew a few fouls.
Shamorie Ponds made it a 10-point game with just under seven minutes left to play after converting a pair from the line, and LoVett cut the deficit single-digits on the next play.
That was as close as the Red Storm would get.
Maurice Watson Jr. drained a three-pointer on Creighton’s next possession and while St. John’s was able to make it a 10-point deficit several times, the Red Storm could never quite get over the hump.
“It’s kind of the game within the game and how you, individually, make your impression felt,” Mullin said. “And as a team I kind of felt they controlled the whole game.”
By the final whistle, the Blue Jays had outscored St. John’s 52-24 in the paint and shot a blistering 52.3 percent from the floor. Creighton seven-footer Justin Patton led the charge with 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting with nine rebounds and four assists.
It’s a wakeup call for the Red Storm, a lesson that “almost” just won’t cut it.
“They were the toughest team we’ve played physically,” Ponds said. “They were tough and it’s going to be hard to beat them on the road. But we’ve just got to take the day off and get better.”