St. John’s may have lost to No. 6 Duke on Jan. 28, but the Blue Devils walked off the floor feeling much worse about their performance than the Red Storm.
“To me, it was a loss today for me,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I didn’t like today.”
St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap was significantly happier with his team’s play. “We’re a team that’s ascending, and maturing, and you can see it before your very eyes,” he said. The Johnnies started five freshmen for the second straight game.
The Red Storm fell behind by as much as 22 points early in the second half, but roared back to get as close as four points in the last minute before Duke closed it out with four free throws to win, 83-76.
St. John’s didn’t look like a maturing team early in the second half, when Duke took a 54-32 lead. But in the second half, the Red Storm held the Blue Devils without a field goal over the last 6:28. Back-to-back three-pointers by freshmen Moe Harkless and D’Angelo Harrison brought the score to 79-75 with 20 seconds left, and although the Johnnies couldn’t complete the comeback, Krzyzewski walked away impressed.
“Those kids [on St. John’s] are not going to stop playing, especially those two,’’ said Krzyzewski, “They are hungry scorers.”
Leading scorers Harkless and Harrison led the way once again for the Red Storm. Harrison had 21 points, including 15 in the second half, while Harkless finished with 30 points on 13-of-21 shooting and 13 rebounds,
“Coming down the stretch we tried to get [Harkless] the ball every touch we could,” Dunlap said. “In the past, that’s been hard for our players to understand — the hot hand needs the ball.”
St. John’s hung around out of the gate, although the Johnnies struggled to deal with Duke’s size, giving up eight offensive rebounds in the first four minutes. Harkless came out of the gates strongly, scoring 10 points and hitting five of his first six shots. His dunk with 8:44 left in the first half cut Duke’s lead to 23-20 and forced a timeout from Krzyzewski.
Out of the timeout, the Blue Devils went on a 20-3 run over the next seven minutes to open up a 20-point lead shortly before halftime. St. John’s trailed by 16 heading into the break.
Coming out of the break, Duke went on a 9-3 run to extend their lead to 22, before the Red Storm came to life. St. John’s shot 46 percent and held the Blue Devils to 30 percent in the second half.
“It seemed like every time we forced a missed shot, they got the offensive rebound toward the end of the game,” Duke forward Ryan Kelly said. “We didn’t have, I think, the pride to say, ‘We’re getting a stop. We’re getting this ball.’”