It might be too early to push the panic button, but St. John’s has dug itself a huge hole during the first two weeks of conference play.
Fresh off two losses, including one blowout, at the hands of Xavier and Georgetown, the Johnnies continued to sputter against Big East rivals Villanova and DePaul.
The Red Storm were defeated by the Wildcats, 74-67, at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11, and the Johnnies’ woeful ways made the trip to Chicago with them, as they lost to DePaul, 77-75, on Jan. 14.
St. John’s has now lost four straight contests, dropping its record to 9-7, and is without a win in 2014.
Much like the heartbreaking loss to second-ranked Syracuse at the Garden, the Red Storm went shot-for-shot with eighth-ranked Villanova, and even took a 33-31 lead into halftime.
While the Red Storm didn’t shoot very efficiently from the floor in the first half, they played solid defense, limiting Villanova to just 26 percent shooting from the field, including a mere 22 percent from three-point range.
The Wildcats shot the ball much better in the second half, though, as ‘Nova buried 44 percent of its shots and hit three of its seven shots from long range. St. John’s missed all four of its three-point shots while shooting 35 percent from the field.
Junior guard D’Angelo Harrison scored a game-high 22 points, 13 coming from the free-throw line, and freshman guard Rysheed Jordan followed with 12 points, but it was Villanova who had five players score double-digit points on its way to victory.
The same symptoms plagued St. John’s against DePaul, as the Johnnies held the Blue Demons to just 11 percent shooting from the three-point line in the first half. But in the second half, DePaul buried five three-pointers as opposed to the Red Storm’s two.
The two squads traded the lead multiple times in the second half, and St. John’s actually led the Blue Demons 75-72 with three minutes to play. But the Red Storm missed its final five shots, including an ill-advised Orlando Sanchez three-point attempt in the final seconds to allow DePaul to steal the win.
“We are naturally disappointed with this result. Our kids were able to rally in the second half ... but we were not productive in the closing stages of the game,” fourth-year coach Steve Lavin said. “We now must move on and get ready to play Providence on Thursday.”
Harrison scored a game-high 24 points, his ninth time scoring at least 20 points this season, even though he nearly missed the game with a mild concussion suffered against Villanova.
He is 47th in all of college basketball in scoring, averaging 19.1 points-per-game, but the Red Storm need more consistent offensive production from players like Sanchez and sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson for the team to realize its full potential.
The Johnnies will look to break their lengthy losing skid against Big East rival Providence on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Carnesecca Arena on campus. Dartmouth, the Red Storm’s final nonconference opponent this season, will also travel to Queens this weekend to do battle with the sputtering Johnnies on Saturday at 6 p.m.