Sunday marked several things. It was senior day, the end of the regular season, fan appreciation day and another history-making game for St. John’s as they defeated Providence 77-64 and slipped into 11th place in Big East conference standings. The Red Storm (16-14, 7-9 Big East) snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Friars (18-11, 8-8), toppling the team at Madison Square Garden for the first time since Feb. of 1995.
Providence tried to match St. John’s basket-for-basket early on tying four times before the Red Storm took off. At the 9:01 mark of the first half, sophomore forward Anthony Mason Jr. connected on a three-pointer off an assist from junior guard Avery Patterson to give St. John’s its seventh lead of the game, never flipping in favor of the Friars again.
At the 6:07 mark of the first half, senior forward Lamont Hamilton collided with Mason, Jr. and a Providence player, causing hyperextension of Hamilton’s left knee. Even after losing their leading scorer because of the injury, though, the team never lost its drive. The Red Storm were up by as much as nine before the half closed at 38-32.
Led by freshmen center Qa’rraan Calhoun, who went 8-for-10 from the field, 3-for-3 from the perimeter, and finished with a team-high 21 points, the Johnnies went on an 18-7 run in the second half with just about ten minutes left in regulation.
“When I saw Lamont [Hamilton] go out, I knew I had to step up,” Calhoun said, after admitting to being a bit nervous seeing the senior go down.
Mason had 17 points, finishing 6-of-13 from the field and grabbed five boards. Junior point guard captain Eugene Lawrence had five points and dished out 11 assists. Senior forward Aaron Spears contributed with eight points. Freshmen guard Larry Wright and junior Avery Patterson grabbed seven and eight boards respectively. Hamilton even had seven points and two assists before the injury.
“I thought it was one of the most complete games we played all year,” said head coach Norm Roberts. “I thought our guys played with very good energy.”
The win, a collective effort powered by Calhoun’s presence on both sides of the floor, gives the team a confidence booster going into their first Big East Championship Tournament game since the 2002-2003 season against Marquette on Wednesday.
“Nobody can take away that they will have a winning season this year and what they have accomplished this year,” Roberts added.
Hamilton will not be able to play for the Big East Championship Tournament due to a partial tear in the patella tendon of his left knee. The injury was revealed after a MRI Monday. The senior Wooden and Naismith Award nominee led the team averaging 13.4 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game. He was named first team Big East Monday He was the 43rd player (behind fellow senior classmate and teammate guard Daryll Hill) to hit the 1,000-point plateau in his collegiate career.
He will join Hill (who ceased playing in January to rehabilitate his surgically repaired knee) on the bench Wednesday-two seniors who impacted the team in unforgettable and immeasurable ways, which will see a Big East Championship Tournament game for the first time, but will not actually play in one. Both, who have been with the team through its transitional stages, were still proud to wear the St. John’s emblem across their chests. Both, who through hard work and dedication, brought their team to promise land, only to see it and never cross over in it.
“Even though I am disappointed and the season didn’t end like I would have liked for me, this year has been a great year for St. John’s,” said Hamilton. “I will cheer for my teammates to make it all the way, and I will be a leader for my team on the sideline.”