Inconsistency has become the most consistent aspect of the Red Storm.
The up-and-down roller coaster that has become a St. John’s basketball game was on display at Alumni Hall Saturday afternoon when the Johnnies (12-9, 5-6) lost to Providence (11-11, 4-7), 69-59.
The Red Storm have not beaten Providence in the last six meetings, and the defeat was also the second straight SJU loss on campus, the first time a losing streak has happened at Alumni Hall since 1988.
The match-up was almost a mirror image of many SJU games this season, including their most previous outing against Villanova.
The Red Storm jumped out to a 13-point halftime advantage over the Friars, only to go cold in the second half and watch their opponent get back into the game.
But unlike what happened against ‘Nova, there was no victory once the final buzzer sounded.
“Right now we’ve got, unfortunately, a tale of two teams,” St. John’s Head Coach Mike Jarvis said. “One that shows up and plays brilliantly for stretches in the first half and then another team shows up in the second half.”
The team that walked onto the court after the break shot 22 percent (7-32) from the floor, missed all 13 of its three-point attempts and suffered several defensive breakdowns.
It looked nothing like the first 20 minutes, when it seemed St. John’s could do nothing wrong on either end of the court.
“I don’t know if stunned would be the proper word,” Jarvis said. “That certainly could be one word we could use.”
One word that was used often in the second half was Sanders, as in Friar forward Rob Sanders.
The sophomore sub came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points, including nine of Providence’s first 12 points of the second stanza, the last coming on an alley-oop that the athletic Sanders dunked backwards to close the St. John’s lead to 36-35 with 15:47 remaining.
The Friars eventually took the lead for good midway through the half on a layup by Ryan Gomes, a lead that would hover around double-digits for the rest of the game.
“Everything we did in the first half was right and everything they did was wrong,” Marcus Hatten said. “Then comes the second half and everything we did was wrong and everything they did was right.”
Hatten led St. John’s with 24 points, but was just nine-of-30 from the floor – two-for-13 after intermission.
“That’s too many shots for me,” the All-American candidate said. “Even with my nature, 30 shots is a lot of shots. Being aggressive, you don’t think about how many shots you’re taking, but that’s way too many.”
Anthony Glover (13 points) and Willie Shaw (12) were the only other Johnnies in double figures.
Injuries also hurt the Red Storm effort again the Friars.
Elijah Ingram played 27 scoreless minutes with a sprained ankle, while Eric King, who missed the Villanova contest, only played two minutes because of pain in his knees.
Kyle Cuffe, however, was healthy and didn’t see any playing time.
“One was a health issue, and that was Eric,” Jarvis said. “Kyle didn’t play in the first half because of the fact that the guys up front were doing such a great job. I had every intention of playing him the second half but it didn’t work out that way. The second half would go as a coach’s decision, and I really don’t want to respond any more than that.”