St. John’s Tops USF

St. John’s (14-10, 5-6 BIG EAST) defeated USF down the stretch 66-62. USF (12-12, 3-7 BIG EAST) came within two when forward Melvin Buckley nailed a 3-pointer with 0:39 remaining in the second half. Buckley finished with 15 points, hitting three of his 3-pointers and scoring 11 of his points in the second half. Junior shooting guard Avery Patterson (11 points, five rebounds and four assists) hit two clutch free throws to bring SJU up by four, 63-59 with 0:33 left on the clock.

USF sent St. John’s back to the line for the second time down the stretch, bringing the Johnnies up by six, after sophomore forward Anthony Mason, Jr. nailed both. Guard Chris Howard of USF hit a three pointer from deep with 11 seconds left on the clock, to bring the Bulls within three.

Another foul committed by USF sent Patterson back to the charity stripe, where he made another free throw. As Howard brought the ball back up the court with 8 seconds left, Patterson stole the ball to prevent the tie and sealed their second consecutive win.

The battle ended and the Johnnies won the war.

“We got tentative and [USF] did a good job of being aggressive” head coach Norm Roberts said. “In the second half, we had a few of those plays where if you make them, the momentum totally goes the other way.”

St. John’s finished 40.4 percent from the field, 35 percent from the arc, and 72.2 percent from the stripe. The energy of the first half faded, but the Johnnies were able to hold on to the lead. Senior forward Lamont Hamilton led the Johnnies with 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and four blocks. Mason, Jr. finished with 13 points, six rebounds and two assists.

The win helped St. John’s position in Big East rankings, placing them one win over the .400 bubble in 9th place. This win puts the Johnnies one step closer to Big East post season play and can increase the chances of them being invited to the NIT.

“It’s a big win for us and it gets us one step closer to our goal” Coach Roberts explained.

The Johnnies were up 40-19 at the half, but could not maintain that huge lead in the second half. USF came out with a new attitude, but could only bring the game, at best, within two. Contributors to the USF 19-point come back were forward Melvin Buckley who finished with 15 points and center Kentrell Gransberry who led USF with 20 points and 19 rebounds.

St. John’s played a great first half, being 48.4 percent from the field and 53.8 percent from the arc. The Johnnies spread the floor, shared the ball, and executed well. St. John’s hit seven of 13 from deep in the first 20 minutes and collectively had 11 assists compared to USF’s three assists by the halftime break.

Hamilton crashed the boards, dominating the interior keeping the Johnnies above water. He was being fed properly by the backcourt and finished strong with each possession. Hamilton was consistent scoring 10 points in each half. He was eight of 13 from the field and two of three from the perimeter.