This was not your typical Garden-variety college basketball game. After beating Duke, Syracuse and Connecticut in one week last season St. John’s is accustomed to playing the spoiler, which they did to perfection against the Kentucky Wildcats. Following the stellar play of freshman Omar Cook and the dominance of Anthony Glover, the Red Storm beat the Wildcats 62-61, behind a strongly partisan SJU crowd of 16,415 at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s great when you have players with hearts as big as the city of New York,” St. John’s Head Coach Mike Jarvis gushed. “I think it’s fitting that Anthony Glover would receive a pass from Omar Cook on a play he drew up and score the winning basket just like he did last year in the Big East semifinal. No one deserves it more than him.”
The atmosphere was perfect at the Garden for the opening round of the Coaches vs. Cancer IKON Classic. Jarvis welcomed eight new players to the ranks of the red and white as his team showed what it was capable of early on in the contest.
Cook showed the crowd some flashy moves from his first touch of the ball. He dominated Wildcat counterpart Saul Smith with an array of fancy passing and a killer crossover that continually made Smith look foolish. Cook finished with 18 points on 6 of 15 shooting including five bombs from behind the arc.
The game saw plenty of lead changes but the impetus for the Red Storm victory occurred with under two minutes in regulation where both teams exhibited a willingness to run and the game saw some spectacular end to end play.
With time waning down, Keith Bogans fouled Bronx native Kyle Cuffe underneath the basket with a 58-57 Kentucky lead. Cuffe proceeded to miss both foul shots on a night that saw him shoot 1-5 from the stripe as the Red Storm shot a collective 9-20 (45 percent).
The pivotal play and eventual game-winning basket came with only five seconds on the shot clock. Glover took a Jessie feed deep underneath the Wildcat basket where he muscled it over the strong Kentucky post-men and dumped it in for the deuce with a foul. That bucket would tie the game at 61-61. Glover would then hit a free throw to give the Red Storm the lead. Kentucky would inbound the ball with the game clock winding down as SJU stripped the ball in the front court as time expired. A celebration that was certainly fitting of the world’s biggest city ensued on the historic Garden hardwood.
However, Jarvis is the first to admit one win is just the start of a long college basketball season as his team returns to MSG tomorrow night at 9 p.m. to play in the championship game against Kansas. “This win was great but we must focus even harder for tomorrow night,” Jarvis said. “We will be ready for them. You can expect that.”