After losing four games in a row, including a 10-point loss at home against Creighton to tip-off the Big East slate, the St. John’s men’s basketball team took the trip to Providence on Saturday, where they were defeated by the 12th ranked Friars, 83-65, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
“That’s a really, really good team,” Chris Mullin said following the loss. “We got down, didn’t give up, got back in the game, but they made some really big shots and some big threes. I liked our competitiveness.”
Yankuba Sima had another efficient and effective game in the paint as the big man finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and eight rebounds. Amar Alibegovic, 10 points provided the Johnnies with a lift off the bench while Felix Balamou, 11 points, used his slashing ability to get into the lane and finish at the rim.
But the Johnnies needed a total team effort to pull off a major upset against one of the hottest teams in the nation and they didn’t receive enough from Federico Mussini. The freshman guard had just three points on 1-of-3 shooting in just 16 minutes and struggled mightily for the second straight game as he was bothered by Kris Dunn’s (26 points, nine rebounds, six assists) length. Ron Mvouika also battled foul trouble, adding just two points in 13 minutes.
While the result wasn’t what Mullin and company wanted, the Red Storm’s energy level and fight was promising once again.
St. John’s got out to a quick 18-11 lead before the under 12 minute media timeout thanks to hot shooting, aggressive play and Providence’s sloppy giveaways. But backup point guard Kyron Cartwright and the Friars responded with a 10-0 run to put the home team back in command before stretching the advantage to 12 at the break.
The Johnnies dug themselves into an 18-point hole at the beginning of the second frame until Mullin switched to a bigger lineup to counter the length and size of Providence. Alibegovic, Johnson, Balamou, Sima and Malik Ellison played solid defense, attacked the rim and took care of the ball in order to cut the deficit to six.
“We try to mix and match,” Mullin said when asked about the lineup he used in the second half. “We just got a lot of our guys on the floor together so we’re still trying things out.”
Sima was particularly impressive in the second frame, as he showed off his potential to finish around the rim with his soft touch. He had a couple of big momentum building dunks and also showed off his solid feel for the game.
The Friars were led by Dunn but also received significant production from Ben Bentil (20 points and nine boards) and Rodney Bullock (13 points and eight rebounds). St. John’s had trouble stopping Providence in transition (especially in the first half) and let the Friars shoot just under 50 percent from the floor and were out-rebounded by nine.