It didn’t need to be a tremendous display of basketball fundamentals or graceful showcase of athletic prowess. The Red Storm was just looking for a win – one win that would put them a little closer to a Big East Tournament berth that seemed to be falling further away after every game.
Good thing the conference doesn’t give ratings for technique.
St. John’s stayed alive in the five-team fight for a tournament birth, with a 58-47 win over Seton Hall on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Johnnies finished the night in 12th place in the Big East – the last spot to secure a tournament bid.
“You can call it ugly,” Red Storm coach Norm Roberts said. “I thought it was pretty as all-“
Roberts trailed off, but he didn’t need to finish his sentence to convey the feeling of relief.
Seton Hall (16-9, 7-6) shot just 28.1 percent from the field and only 20 percent in the second half, which is where St. John’s (12-13, 5-9) did just enough for victory.
After being down by as much as five after the half, freshman Ricky Torres banked in a runner from the left wing on a fast break with 8:50 left that gave the Red Storm a 39-37 lead, its first since the opening minutes. The Pirates, who were out-rebounded, 48-31, wouldn’t get the lead again.
And Roberts wasn’t the only one who seemed relieved after his team’s last regular-season game at the Garden.
If the Johnnies don’t make the tourney, seniors Phil Missere and Ryan Williams face the risk of not playing at MSG again.
“Coach [Jose] Martin said, ‘You gotta play all out tonight, this [could] be your last time playing in this arena,'” Williams said.
It was looking that way after St. John’s fell to DePaul last Saturday.
But this win and another in its last two games – at Villanova and against Rutgers at Carnesecca Arena – could bring the seniors a final trip to the Garden.
“In our locker room, we have a list of teams and the standings,” Missere said. “We use it as motivation.”
University President the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., Athletic Director Chris Monasch and Roberts were in San Antonio, Texas on Friday visiting with the NCAA Infractions Committee.
The NCAA has yet to make a decision on St. John’s case, which had to do with paying former player men’s basketball player Abe Keita.
The school imposed its own sanctions last season, including a postseason ban last year and the loss of scholarships last year and next year.