St. John’s Defeats No. 20 Providence In Madison Square Garden On “Johnnies Day”

St. John’s led for more than 37 minutes in the contest, thwarting the Friars’ multiple comeback attempts.

AJ Storr drives to the basket against Providence in Madison Square Garden.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The St. John’s University Men’s Basketball team secured a win against No. 20 Providence on “Johnnies Day” at Madison Square Garden, 73-68, backed by an emotional performance by junior forward David Jones. 

Jones, who did not play in the team’s last two games following the death of his father, scored a team-high 16 points and added seven rebounds against the Friars. 

“I just wanted to play in my dad’s name and I just wanted to win for him,” Jones said in a postgame media conference, where he told reporters his dad was the person who taught him how to play basketball. “I was going to do anything it took to win this game and I will do whatever it takes to win the other games as well.”

St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson embraces junior forward David Jones.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

Beyond the junior’s tangible impact on the game, Jones brought a level of intensity and focus to the team’s play that has been absent in recent contests. Heading into the “Johnnies Day” showdown against Providence, the Johnnies carried a three-game losing streak and held a 4-10 record in the Big East conference. 

St. John’s jumped out to a quick lead and built up a 25-9 advantage after just nine and a half minutes of play, setting the tone for the afternoon. Though Providence threatened to stage a comeback at the end of the first half and continued throughout the final period, the Friars couldn’t overcome their early deficit. All told, the Red Storm led for more than 37 minutes in one of their best wins of the season.

The Johnnies were able to knock off their ranked opponent by playing tight defense, scoring in the paint and utilizing their bench. Despite playing without Andre Curbelo, who was out due to a coach’s decision, the St. John’s bench scored 23 total points. 

“They played well defensively and offensively,” St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson said of his team’s effort. “It was good, balanced scoring against a really good Providence team. It was a good job by our team that started and that came off the bench.”

Providence head coach Ed Cooley talks to his team during a timeout.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The scoring breakdown couldn’t have been more different for the Friars, who were propelled by Bryce Hopkins’ 29 points and nine rebounds. Providence landed just four points from its bench as the team’s starters provided the bulk of offense. 

Saturday’s matinee win was a much-needed one as St. John’s approaches the Big East Tournament far outside of NCAA Tournament contention. Despite strong preseason tournament hopes, the team’s second Quad 1 victory and 5-10 conference record places it firmly outside the postseason picture. 

There’s still the Big East Tournament, though, where the winner will receive an automatic entry into the NCAA Tournament. “We are just taking it game by game,” senior center Joel Soriano said of the team’s mindset with the conference tournament approaching. “When we get to the tournament, we will be ready.”

The victory also preserved the sanctity of the first-ever “Johnnies Day,” a day-long celebration of St. John’s standing as “New York’s team.” Although a strong showing from Providence fans negated the Johnnies’ home-court advantage, the team came away with a win during the inaugural event.

St. John’s returns to action Tuesday, when the team travels to Chicago to face DePaul at 9 p.m.