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Queens Chronicle

Big East play cruel to struggling Johnnies

Frustration mounts as St. John’s falls to yet another conference foe

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Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 7:11 pm, Thu Jan 30, 2014.

Mayor de Blasio based his campaign on the inequalities found in what he called the “tale of two cities,” but the Red Storm’s season to this point can be described as the tale of two teams.

The story changes from game to game, and even half to half. One moment, St. John’s looks like a squad ready to break out of its shell to tell the college basketball world that it’s for real. The next, the Johnnies look completely overmatched and outgunned.

Some of the blame for the Red Storm’s failures certainly falls on fourth-year coach Steve Lavin. He hasn’t been able to fully extract the talent that rests within his team. But at the end of the day, the players themselves have had trouble playing consistently.

And that was evident in the Johnnies’ heartbreaking double-overtime 84-83 loss to Providence at home on Jan. 16.

The Red Storm eventually broke its five-game losing skid by topping nonconference opponent Dartmouth 69-55 at home on Jan. 18. However, St. John’s has lost all five of its Big East conference games and its record sits at a 10-8.

Against Providence, the Red Storm had a real chance to do what every other team in the Big East has already done, win a conference game. But the inconsistency bug struck again as St. John’s struggled to put Providence away.

The Red Storm missed its first nine three-point attempts and didn’t score from beyond the arc until there were three minutes remaining in regulation.

The Johnnies also had chances to win the game in regulation and in double overtime.

With the game tied, St. John’s had the final possession of the second half, but the Red Storm settled for a three-pointer that was off the mark.

In double overtime, St. John’s led by one point and had possession of the ball, but a defensive stop by the Friars allowed Providence’s Bryce Cotton to drive to the hoop and score with nine seconds left.

“We were very disappointed that we lost because we had the game won. We found a way to lose and that’s our fault,” Lavin said. “This is a long season and it’s not over yet.”

St. John’s fans and beat writers alike took to Twitter after the game to express their frustration with team’s losing streak. Some fans even called for Lavin to be fired at season’s end. While there is still plenty of basketball left, it’s not farfetched that Lavin might eventually find himself in the hot seat if the Red Storm’s struggles continue.

Fresh off the loss to Providence, the Red Storm were able to showcase some of that talent, against overmatched foe Dartmouth, that many experts had believed would carry St. John’s into the NCAA Tournament.

It took 21 days, but the Red Storm finally recorded a win on the strength of guard Phil Greene’s game-high 16 points. Sophomore JaKarr Sampson contributed 13 points of his own while center Orlando Sanchez snagged a career-high 10 rebounds.

The road to righting themselves doesn’t get easier for St. John’s, as they hurtle head first into the teeth of Big East play. The Johnnies square off with a much-improved Seton Hall team in Queens on Thursday.

The Red Storm will then face Butler and Creighton, who decimated fourth-ranked Villanova 96-68 this week, on the road on Saturday and Tuesday respectively.

Welcome to the discussion.