Storming back

“He plays with energy,” St. John’s coach Norm Roberts said of Sean Evans on Friday, one day before the Red Storm knocked off Providence, 64-62, for its third straight win.

On Saturday, Evans brought more than energy. The 6-foot-8 forward posted 12 points and nine rebounds, proving to be a presence on the inside.

“My teammates have been there helping me get my confidence back,” said Evans, who earlier in the season looked confused more times than not on the floor.

Evans isn’t the only one who is getting his confidence back.

After the debacle at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 30 against Georgetown, the Johnnies have turned their season around with three straight victories.

“When we were down we could have easily crumbled,” said Malik Boothe, “but we stuck it out.”

In front of a near-capacity crowd at Carnesecca Arena, St. John’s poise was evident, as the Red Storm carried the play through the first 35 minutes of
the game.

But five minutes into the second half, Providence took advantage of poor shooting from the Johnnies and solid shooting of its own to go on an 11-0 run to take the lead, 41-39. The Red Storm stopped the bleeding but the Friars eventually went up 56-50 with just over seven minutes left to play.
St. John’s went on a run of its own to tie the game at 57, and with just under two minutes left Justin Burrell sunk a lay-up that rolled in.

Eugene Lawrence then hit a shot from behind the arc that seemingly hung in the air for a minute before falling into the basket, giving St. John’s a five-point lead with under a minute left.

“Stuff like that only happens in the movies,” Lawrence said.

“Eugene Lawrence deserved to make that shot,” Roberts said. “He takes a lot of heat [from fans] and comes back stronger every day.”

Although Lawrence’s three-pointer appeared to have iced the game, clutch shooting by Providence and Larry Wright only making two out of four free throws in two opportunities from the line in the last minute kept the Friars alive.

Down by two points, Providence’s Weyinmi Efejuku drove hard to the basket and was fouled with .01 seconds left by Burrell.
Efejuku missed both shots, the game ending in controversy as Providence coach Tim Welsh believed the final buzzer sounded before the ball touched anyone’s hand.
“The ball hit the rim, no one touched it and the horn sounded,” Welsh said. “It’s ridiculous.”

The call stood and St. John’s had its third straight victory. The Red Storm will travel to Ohio to take on Cincinnati tonight, a team St. John’s has already beaten this season.

“I told the guys that opportunity only comes around every so often,” Roberts said.
Opportunity is knocking. Will St. John’s answer?