|The eye in the sky at Madison Square Garden. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The St. John's Red Storm's roller-coaster ride of a season ended on Thursday afternoon when they lost in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals to top-seeded Xavier 88-60.
St. John's, who beat Georgetown on Wednesday night and were back on the floor at noon Thursday, hung in there for the first half, trailing by just four, 32-28, at halftime.
The second half was all Xavier from the start, as they went on an 11-2 run capped by a Quention Goodin layup to make it 50-37 at the 13:57 mark.
A Trevon Bluiett layup gave Xavier a 21-point lead, 67-46, at the 8:39 mark, and they never were really tested the rest of the way.
Bluiett led Xavier with 27 points on 8-18 from the field, including 4-11 on three-pointers, with seven rebounds.
Kaiser Gates had a big game off the bench, as he had 16 points on a near-perfect 6-7 from the field and 4-5 from behind the arc, along with four rebounds and two assists.
Kerem Kanter, whose brother Enes plays for the Knicks, had 12 points on 4-7 shooting, with rebounds in 17 minutes.
St. John's was led by Marvin Clark II, who had 18 points (6-16 FG, 3-10 threes), six rebounds, and an assist. Shamorie Ponds had 15 points (4-14 FG, 0-7 threes), seven rebounds, and three assists. Jusin Simon had 14 points on 6-11 from the field, including 2-3 on threes, with three rebounds and an assist.
St. John's began the season 10-2 in non-conference play, then lost 11 straight to open Big East play through the end of January.
As the calendar turned to February, they scored an upset victory over then-number 4 Duke on February 3 a Madison Square Garden, followed by beating Number 1 Villanova in Philadelphia on February 7. They followed that with wins over Marquette and DePaul, followed by losses to Marquette and Seton Hall.
On February 28, they came back from five points down with 17 seconds left to stun Butler in double overtime. They followed that with a loss in Providence to close out Big East play with a 4-14 record.
They beat old rival Georgetown, 88-77, on Wednesday night in the opening game of the Big East Tournament behind 26 points from Ponds, who was named to the All-Big East First Team last Sunday.
St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin said of the loss to Xavier and the quick turnaround, "They're a tough team to play against under any conditions. They just are a really good team through and through. Got great guards. They're physical.
"The turnaround is what it is. It's scheduled out and that's what you get for coming in ninth."
Marvin Clark II said of what they will take out this Big East Tournament, "Like Coach said that's what you get for being ninth. Biggest thing I take from it try to finish in the top 5, try to be a top 5 seed so you get a better break. But it's our league. It's a good league, great league. We've known that throughout the year."
Mullin was asked about the season and he said, "I really haven't assessed the whole season, but, yeah, you're right on, we got off to a good start. Had a horrendous January and I thought we played pretty well the last 10 games. So up and down, inconsistent for different reasons, different circumstances.
"But these two guys here (Clark and Justin Simon) and the guys that played the bulk of the minutes, I thought they did a good job handling different things that were thrown at them, just absorbing it, being accountable and just kind of moving on."
On if they can take anything away from their late-season momentum, Mullin said, " I think it's clear when we played unselfishly, played together, we're a pretty good ball club. And when we didn't, we struggled. A lot of times we had some close games that didn't go our way, but I thought we fought through that and to finish up the way we did I thought was impressive after having that tough stretch in January."
Clark said of lessons they learned this season, "I would say you know how you handle distractions, how you handle distractions and how you go about every day on and off the floor. I think that's one of the biggest things. Like Coach said, consistency.
"We have reasons within our team, within our program that were kind of distractions to our team. But the biggest thing, it's just what Coach has instilled in us is how we bounce back. And I think having that 11-game stretch of losing, losing, losing, losing, I think most people would have cowered and tucked their tail and ran. I'm proud of our team for fighting back and making, salvaging something out of the season.
"And I think that's just goes from what Coach has instilled in us and what he's talked to us about night in night out."
Mullin said of Ponds' future with the team, how he will be part of that process, and whether Ponds goes pro, "I haven't advised him as of yet. I think the setup for the kids now is perfect. They can get out, get all the information, transparently, gather all the information and make a smart decision.
"I guess there's a lot of people out there that have opinions, but there's only 30 people that matter, it's the 30 GMs in the NBA. Whether it be Twitter or Facebook or all the stuff you follow, the only people that matter are the 30 men that run the NBA teams. And he'll get his input, like every player in college can, get transparent information and make a smart decision."