Slow start dooms St. John’s in 86-75 loss to Providence

The Johnnies were dominated in the paint most of the afternoon. (Photo Credit: RedStormSports.com).

The Johnnies were dominated in the paint most of the afternoon. (Photo Credit: RedStormSports.com).

Troy Mauriello, Co-Sports Editor

An 86-75 loss for St. John’s against Providence in the Red Storm’s season finale did two things. First, it ended the Red Storm’s three-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden. But second, and likely more importantly, it exposed a weakness that Chris Mullin’s young team will have to improve upon if they want to contend next season.

St. John’s was overmatched and, at times, bullied in the front court throughout the entire afternoon. Providence used its superior size down low to absolutely dominate the paint, out-rebounding the Red Storm 44-34 and scoring 42 points in the paint.

“No energy, no pop, everybody was sleep-walking,” Mullin said on his team’s effort.

Isaiah Jackson led the way for Providence with 18 points, but it was a team effort that led them to victory. Four players scored in double-figures for the Friars, who will likely hear their name called in just over a week on Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament.

The Red Storm was also hindered by an abysmal offensive performance in the first half. They shot just 4-21 from the field and 1-10 from three, and turned the ball over eight times on top of that. Despite this, St. John’s went into the half trailing by just 12, 37-25, as they were able to hit 16 of 21 free throws in the opening period.

As the second half got underway, Providence extended its lead to 16 within the first 10 minutes. The lead blossomed to 18 with 8:29 left to play, however a 9-2 St. John’s run over the next 1:39 gave the Red Storm some hope with 6:50 left.

From there, St. John’s missed a chance to cut the deficit to single digits on three straight offensive possessions. By the four-minute mark Providence again led by 16, and the game was all but out of reach for the Red Storm.

A valiant effort late, which resulted in St. John’s getting within seven two times in the final minute, went to waste, as Providence held on for the 11-point win.

For Shamorie Ponds, he ended his freshman season at St. John’s with a career effort scoring-wise. Ponds scored a career-high 29 points on 12-25 shooting, and was arguably the only reason that the Red Storm was not blown out of The Garden.

Despite the scoring effort from Ponds, Mullin felt as though his star freshman did not have his best game of the season, illustrating what he felt is a strong case that Ponds has for the Big East Freshman of the Year award.

“The points are nice today, career-high, but I’ve seen him play better games when he’s scored six points,” Mullin said on Ponds.

Bashir Ahmed scored 18 but did a majority of his work from the foul line, shooting 8-10 from the line and just 5-15 from the field. Marcus LoVett scored 12 points but attempted just seven shots from the field, he also recorded just one assist, as St. John’s had just six assists the entire game.

“We didn’t play hard enough, and we didn’t move the ball around enough,” Ahmed said on the Red Storm offensive performance.

The Red Storm will now turn their sights to the Big East Tournament, where they are locked as the eight-seed in a matchup with the ninth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas on Wednesday.

St. John’s just recently took down the Hoyas, 86-80, at The Garden on Feb. 25, and if they can duplicate that performance, they’ll have a date with the Villanova Wildcats looming after.

“We had a horrible sleepwalking performance, but we do have a game Wednesday here,” Mullin said. “So let’s not show up like that again.”