St. John’s put up a strong first-half fight against No. 1 Duke, but the Blue Devils pulled away in the second, culminating in a 70-57 defeat at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The Red Storm led, 22-21, as late as 5:54 left in the first and earned a 26-all tie with 4 minutes to go until halftime, but Duke took a 39-30 lead at the break. St. John’s came out flat in the second half and allowed the ACC powerhouse to reel off a 21-9 run that effectively KO’d the Johnnies in front of a crowd of 9,314.
Junior Aaron Spears had a career-high 14 points in the losing effort and Duke guard J.J. Redick, a national player of the year candidate, had a game-high 19 points. Three other players scored in double figures for the Blue Devils: Josh McRoberts (12), Sean Dockery (12) and Shelden Williams (11). Williams also added 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
The 6-foot-10 Spears, averaging 5.1 points and 14.9 minutes coming in, had by far his best game of the season matched up against Williams, an all-ACC big man. His previous scoring high was seven, but the Chicago native stepped up his game against the best, shooting 6-of-11 from the field and pulling down six rebounds. Ten of his points came with the Red Storm came in the first half with St. John’s very much in the game.
St. John’s (5-4), which came into the game allowing opponents to shoot only 36 percent from the field, was not as successful against Duke. The Blue Devils shot 48 percent from the floor, but only 29 percent from three.
The Red Storm managed to out-rebound the Blue Devils as well, 34-28 √¢?” 12-5 on the offensive end.
But what really did St. John’s in was turnovers. The team turned the ball over 16 times, two of them coming in key possessions while the game was still close late in the first half.
Juniors Daryll Hill and Lamont Hamilton, the team’s two leading scorers were stymied by the top-ranked Dukies. Hill, averaging 14.8 points per game coming, was held to a season-low seven on 3-of-13 shooting. Hamilton, averaging 13.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, was saddled with early foul trouble and failed to score a single point in the first half. He finished with seven points and six rebounds.
Duke (11-0) has now won 38 straight non-conference games at Cameron. The last team to defeat the Blue Devils in Durham was St. John’s on Feb. 26, 2000, 83-82.
On the flip side, St. John’s has now lost 24 straight road games, spanning back to December 2003.
With Hamilton in foul trouble, graduate student Phil Missere played a solid 18 minutes with four points and three rebounds, while playing sturdy defense-Freshman Anthony Mason Jr., with the elder Anthony Mason in the stands, scored eight points on 3-of-4 shooting-Struggling sophomore Eugene Lawrence, coming into the game shooting 31 percent from the field, was 3-of-12 against Duke.