Curbelo Tossed As Johnnies Fall To Pirates In Queens, 84-72

St. John’s got Seton Hall in foul trouble early, but couldn’t capitalize after Andre Curbelo’s ejection.

Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The Wednesday-night matchup between St. John’s and Seton Hall tipped off at around 8:30 p.m. in Carnesecca Arena. At nearly 11 p.m., fans were just starting to leave the venue. A chippy contest between the two tri-state area teams led to one of the longest St. John’s Men’s Basketball games of the season, ending in a crushing 84-72 loss. 

Tensions were running high all game as both teams — and the 4,977 fans in attendance — expressed their displeasure with the officiating. This culminated in an exchange between St. John’s guard Andre Curbelo and Seton Hall forward KC Ndefo under the 14-minute mark in the second half, who were both charged with offsetting technical fouls. 

Moments later, Curbelo slammed his glasses in frustration, and was thrown out the game by referee Brian O’Connell. St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson identified Curbelo’s ejection as the game’s turning point in a postgame media conference. 

“Obviously, we had a situation that took place with our starting guard and we needed someone to step up,” Anderson said. “We didn’t answer the call and that falls on me as a head coach.”

This isn’t the first time that Curbelo’s ability to play has been impacted by his antics. The junior guard wasn’t available for the team’s Jan. 3 contest against Marquette for “not adhering to team standards,” per Zach Braziller of the New York Post. Curbelo was also ejected in the team’s Jan. 15 game against No. 6 UConn.

Curbelo apologized to fans in a statement posted on Twitter early Thursday morning. “I truly don’t know why I got the first technical foul but that can’t be my reaction to a bad call,” Curbelo wrote. “There’s nobody to blame but me, I take full responsibility for it.”

At the time of Curbelo’s ejection, St. John’s held a narrow 46-44 lead. After Al-Amir Dawes’ two technical free throws, the game was tied.

For a brief period after the ejection, the Red Storm jumped out to a 55-48 lead, and the fans were riled up. Seton Hall had four players with four personal fouls, and committing just one more would send them to the bench. St. John’s had Seton Hall right where they wanted it. 

But the Red Storm weren’t able to draw a foul on one of those four players for a nine-minute period until Tyrese Samuel fouled out with 2:34 left in regulation. 

Both teams built up large leads throughout the late-night contest, with Seton Hall leading by 14 and St. John’s by 13 at various times. Seton Hall rattled off a 23-8 run over a seven-and-a-half minute period shortly after Curbelo’s ejection, and although St. John’s put together a comeback attempt under the four-minute mark, it was too little too late.

With the loss, St. John’s falls to 4-8 in the Big East, and are 12-19 in league play over the last two seasons. “I just think we haven’t really come together and played at the level you gotta play at consistently,” Anderson said. “We just haven’t played the type of basketball I want us to play, to put it bluntly.”

St. John’s returns to action when it travels to Cincinnati for a 5 p.m. matchup with No. 16 Xavier.