Wednesday, February 21, 2024

St. John's Answers Pitino's Put-Downs With Win In DC


Jordan Dingle goes up for a layup. @StJohnsBball.

Three days after St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino tore into his team after a brutal loss to Seton Hall, the Red Storm went down to Washington, DC, and earned a road win over the Georgetown Hoyas, 90-85, on Wednesday night.

St. John's improved to 7-9 in Big East Conference play, and improved their overall record to 15-12. As much as their hopes for the NCAA Tournament have dimmed, 20 wins is generally considered the magic number to make it. Georgetown fell to 1-14 in Big East play, while their overall record is 8-18.

Jordan Dingle led the Red Storm with 22 points on 8-13 shooting, including 3-6 from behind the arc, with four rebounds and two assists. Daniss Jenkins had 15 points (5-8 FG, 2-4 threes), with five assists and three rebounds. Joel Soriano had a double-double with 10 points (3-6 FG) and 10 rebounds, along with two assists.

St. John's raced out to a 23-9 lead early, and that ballooned to a 19-point edge, 37-18 when Soriano made a hook shot with 5:33 left in the first half.

Georgetown stunned them from that point until halftime, as they went on a 14-2 run to pull to within seven points, 39-32.

The second half began pretty even, with the Red Storm still up seven, 46-39 four minutes in. Over the next few minutes, St. John's went on a 12-2 run capped by a Simeon Wilcher three-pointer that made it 58-41 at 13:03.

St. John's maintained around a 10-point edge until the final stages of the game, when Georgetown went on an 8-2 run to pull to within four points, 82-78, with 1:31 left.

Jenkins then buried a jumper with 1:02 left, and after Wayne Bristol, Jr. drained a three-pointer to make it 84-81 SJU, the play of the game arrived.

Fighting a press on the inbounds pass, Luis sprung ahead and found a lane to race in for a dunk to make it a five-point game with 33 seconds left, and then Soriano made a pair of free throws to put them up 88-81 with 16 seconds left and seal the win.

St. John's returns to Madison Square Garden to take on #15 Creighton, who will be coming off a dominant 85-66 win over top-ranked Connecticut. 

PITINO POSTGAME: St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino addressed the media after the win, and he started by addressing his comments after Sunday's loss to Seton Hall, when he called out his players: "I went home and didn't think it was any big deal. I thought everyone blew it all the way out of proportion. These guys have heard a lot worse in closed quarters. I went home and talked to my wife and came back and said to my staff, 'Any of the guys upset?' and they said a couple of [the guys] feelings are hurt. I immediately went to the team and told them I love you guys, I would never want to embarrass you, but it's my bad. I'm at fault. I should have never mentioned anybody by name, I didn't mean it. I was trying to talk typical clinic talk like I do. The slowest player in the NBA is [Nikola] Jokic; he can't move laterally. Some of the greatest players I've coached can't move laterally. I didn't think it was a big deal, but I should have never mentioned the names. I'm a veteran coach. I tell every young coach in the business, show class when you win, show class when you lose, give the other team credit. I've been really frustrated this year for a number of reasons but understand something, I recruited [Jordan Dingle]. I recruited [RJ Luis Jr.]. My staff did not recruit these guys; it was all me. [Jordan's] dad called me, and I said, 'Done, I want him.] RJ, I wanted him, thought he was going to be great. [Chris] Ledlum, I wanted him. It was all me. And I'm very proud to have them, but I totally apologize to them for doing that...

"I wasn't ripping them, that wasn't my intent, but words matter. I just want to briefly say, my guys are the most important thing. My family and my players, outside of breathing air, they are the most important things in my life. That's why I'm still coaching today. They are the air that I breathe, and I love them dearly. I would never want to embarrass them or hurt them. A couple of them certainly were, but they went out yesterday and had the best practice of the year. I'm real proud of that. We came tonight and played great offense. [Dingle and Luis] were terrific. Real proud of the win...I also want to apologize to any St. John's fan because they have treated me like royalty. If any of them were taken aback, I apologize as well. And some of you in the media who cover us, I want to apologize to you, because you didn't need to mess with this nonsense, you just want to talk basketball...

"That's behind us. I'm real proud of our guys, we have a tremendous game coming on Sunday against a great team [Creighton] that's playing great basketball. We needed to win [tonight]. We did a lot of great things tonight on offense...Our motto in the timeouts was don't play to lose. Play to win. Don't milk the clock. Go score. That's exactly what RJ did, he was brilliant driving to the basket. Jordan was great tonight at every phase of the game with his steals, shooting the ball with his midrange, passing. He was great tonight. Real proud of these two guys as well as the other guys. This was a great win for us."

On slowing Georgetown's late run and winning on the road: "Every basketball team has runs. The good thing is they made tough shots and we never stopped punching the basket and that's the key to winning a close game on the road. Look, I'm sure you all recognize in college basketball as opposed to the NBA, someone mentioned to me about UConn today, they are 0 for their last 21 on the road against ranked teams, and they are great. They are extremely well-coached, they are great. You take away nothing from them, they won a championship. What you take away is that is extremely difficult to win on the road. When you get a road victory, I don't care where it's at or who you are playing, it's a great victory."

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