Heartbreak at the Garden

With time running down, the St. John’s men’s basketball regular season finale looked like it was going the way that so many of the team’s games against ranked teams went – a promising beginning followed by a bitterly disappointing end.

That outlook looked like it could change beginning at the 1:48 mark in the second half as the Red Storm (16-14, 8-10) closed out the game on a 9-0 run, forcing a tie with No. 15 Marquette at the end of regulation. The Johnnies kept it close through the five-minute overtime period, but ultimately fell to the Golden Eagles (23-7, 14-4) 69-67 on a buzzer-beater
“After being down by [12 early in the second half], and then fighting back and then just being there tied in overtime, and just coming up short in the end, it’s really hard,” freshman Christian Jones said. “But we still fought.”

The Johnnies led from the 15:28 mark in the first half all the way until the last 1:32 before halftime, where they found themselves down 28-25. Marquette opened the second half continuing its resurgence, finishing off an 18-0 run that spanned both halves and forcing head coach Steve Lavin to burn two early timeouts.

“Obviously, no one in our locker room is satisfied with moral victories,” Lavin said. “So we try to learn from this, build on the positive and improve.

Greene led the Red Storm with 20 points, while freshman JaKarr Sampson added 17 points and seven rebounds. Jones played 20 minutes off the bench and scored a career-high 10 points after spending most of the month of February watching from the sidelines.

“I was still fighting in practice, still trying to get my minutes back up,” Jones said, referring to his time out of the rotation. “When called upon, I have to perform, have to do what I’m capable of doing.”

Marquette claimed its share of the Big East regular season title with the victory, while Vander Blue provided 16 points including the aforementioned buzzer-beater and Jamil Wilson added 14.

St. John’s has now lost seven of its last nine, including all of its last four. That last stretch in particular dashed any realistic hopes that the Red Storm would be celebrating come Selection Sunday.

The Big East Championship stands between today and next Sunday, however, giving the Red Storm a chance at new life one last time. The No. 10 seed Johnnies take on No. 7 Villanova at 7 p.m. tonight. They’d have to pull off a monumental run in the next four days to put themselves in a positive position for Sunday, but it certainly isn’t impossible.

“It’s a fresh start, a new beginning, a reset,” Lavin said. “Everyone in America is 0-0 when you step into championship week.”