The Red Storm entered the Big East Tournament needing a victory to reach the 20-win plateau, but it almost experienced a case of d√©j√† vu.
Facing Seton Hall in the first round for the second straight season, the Johnnies were trying to make the NCAA Tournament instead of just the postseason.
St. John’s came away with a 64-58 win over Seton Hall on March 6, but almost had their hopes shot down, thanks to poor shooting.
The Red Storm went the first nine and a half minutes of the second half without making a shot. They couldn’t hit lay-ups. Or free throws. Or three-pointers. They missed their first 18 shots of the half before Donald Emanuel took a pass from Sharif Fordham and sent home an emphatic dunk that seemed to spark the Johnnies.
“We just felt that we’ve been in that situation before, where we haven’t scored in over a long period of time,” said Fordham. “And I think that one basket helped us break the momentum of not scoring.”
What also helped St. John’s was Seton Hall’s inability to capitalize on the scoring drought. The Pirates were able to score just seven points in that same time frame, keeping the Storm within striking distance.
With 4:15 remaining and the score 46-46, Marcus Hatten sparked a 14-2 run that was highlighted when his three-pointer from behind the NBA-line went in off the glass.
“When it left my hand, I know I left it a little bit harder than I usually shoot it,” said Hatten. “I called bank. You can ask Ty Shine if I called that.”
Besides Hatten’s heroics, free throw shooting kept the Storm in control down the stretch. The Johnnies converted 10 of 12 from the charity stripe to ice the game.
Hatten led SJU with 16 points, while Anthony Glover chipped in with 14 points and eight rebounds. The Hall’s Andre Barrett and John Allen led all scorers with 17 points.
With the victory, St. John’s won 20 games for the fourth time in five seasons and the 35th time in school history.
The following night, Notre Dame ended St. John’s stay in the Tournament with an 83-63 win in the quarterfinals.
The Fighting Irish scored the first seven points of the game and never looked back, thanks to the shooting of Ryan Humphrey, who scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half.
Notre Dame shot 63 percent in the first half to take a 42-28 halftime lead.
The Johnnies fought back to close the Notre Dame lead to five at the 10:35 mark, but were unable to get any closer when Notre Dame responded with a 20-2 run.
“We knew that they were going to get a run in the second half,” said Irish point guard Chris Thomas. “We just had to counter it, and that’s what we did.”
Three-point baskets by Thomas, David Graves and Matt Carroll made sure that the Storm couldn’t recover from the offensive onslaught.
“It was a combination of us not taking care of business and them taking care of business,” said St. John’s Head Coach Mike Jarvis. “You put the two together, and all of a sudden you go from [down] seven to 20.”
Hatten led St. John’s with 25 points on nine-of-24 shooting. No other Johnnie scored in double figures.
While the loss ended the Red Storm’s regular season, SJU earned a nine-seed in the NCAA Tournament and will face Wisconsin in the first round.