Men’s basketball drops finale

It wasn’t exactly your storybook ending. On Friday, the St. John’s men’s basketball team found out it did not qualify for the Big East Tournament and on Saturday afternoon, at Madison Square Garden, St. John’s was unable to secure a win against West Virginia. In fact, the Johnnies completed its season with an 83-74 loss to
the Mountaineers.

The nine-point loss was not indicative of the game, as the Johnnies sent fans on a rollercoaster ride throughout regulation and overtime minutes. Most notably, in the last 13:23 of regulation, the young St. John’s team played as if all the experience gained throughout the season finally paid off.

“This could have been a day when our guys could have laid down and [not] get after it, [but] they did,” said St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts. “It just really shows the character of the young men that we have in our program and how they’re going to get better.

“The future looks bright.”

The Johnnies came back from an 11-point deficit at the 13:10 mark when it went on a 24-9 run, completely closing the gap and putting the team up by four, 63-59, with 2:24 remaining on the clock. The four-point lead after a three-pointer by sophomore guard Larry Wright off an assist from senior guard Eugene Lawrence was the largest margin the Johnnies held until another four-point advantage came seconds later when the score was 66-62.

West Virginia forward Joe Alexander, who finished with a career high 29 points and 10 rebounds, hit two pairs of free throws that tied the game at 66 with 12 seconds left in regulation. Freshman guard Malik Boothe was then fouled by Mountaineer sophomore guard Joe Mazzulla on a drive to the basket.

Boothe hit two clutch free throws that put the Johnnies back up by two with five secoonds left in the second half. After a questionable St. John’s timeout, Mazzulla, trying to compensate for the fouling error, took the ball coast-to-coast and scored a fast-break lay-up, blowing right past St. John’s defense.

The score was tied again, 68-68.

St. John’s was unable to gun the ball back down the court to complete a lay-up before the three seconds
ran out.

Overtime saw the fouling-out of three key St. John’s players: freshman forward Justin Burrell, junior forward Anthony Mason, Jr. and Boothe. The game ended in favor of the Mountaineers, who hit 11-of-15 from the line in overtime minutes alone.

Wright finished with six three pointers en route to a 20-point performance, while Mason, Jr. had 17 points and five rebounds.
D.J. Kennedy chipped in 10 points and four boards. St. John’s went on 43.8 percent shooting from the field and 47.8 percent from the perimeter.

Apart from the loss, it was Lawrence’s last game of his collegiate career.

“Since my freshmen year, even though we didn’t win that many games, you felt happy everyday about coming to practice because it was a family-like atmosphere,” said Lawrence.

“I’ve been with Geno since I first came on my visit,” Mason added. “We have a really close relationship [and] with [him] missing, it’s going to be different.”

Saying farewell to the old, St. John’s looks forward to moving on with a core of eight second-year players with a season full of on-the-court experience.

“We’re going to be a lot better next year,”
Wright said.

Facing No. 19 Notre Dame was not an easy task for any Big East team this season, yet St. John’s pulled out another moral victory in the loss, seeing an improvement in defense and overall maturity on the court.
The Johnnies may have lost to the formidable Fighting Irish on the road last Wednesday night at the Joyce Center, but the team did put up a fight. The Irish, with the 68-55 win over the Johnnies, became the first Big East team to go undefeated at home in two
consecutive seasons.

Irish sophomore forward Luke Harangody led all scorers with 20 points. He also had six rebounds. Contributing to the win was senior forward Rob Kurz with 15 points and junior guard Kyle McAlarney, who chipped in 13 points.

The Irish shot 53.8 percent (28-of-52) from the field. The effects of a player-deficient position down low manifested itself to St. John’s, as the Irish won the battle inside 36-28.
“Our guys played very hard against Notre Dame,” Roberts said. “Notre Dame made some shots, we missed some shots, but we competed throughout the whole game.”

St. John’s saw difficulty getting to the basket early on, but were successful in the second half, finishing the game 41.1 percent (23-of-56) from the field and narrowly winning the rebounding battle
31-29.

Junior forward Anthony Mason, Jr. paced the Johnnies with 16 points, while freshman wingman D.J. Kennedy tacked on 11 points and seven boards.

Although St. John’s fought hard in a game that had Big East Tournament implications, almost matching Notre Dame in second-half points (35-34), a late run by the Irish in the first half and 12 Johnnies turnovers that converted into 20 Irish points cost them the game.

“We prepared ourselves well, but it just didn’t show on the court,” Mason, Jr. said of allowing the late run in the
first half.

“We were getting good looks and good shots to the basket, but they just weren’t falling.”

St. John’s trailed Notre Dame at halftime 33-21. The Johnnies gave up 14-of-23 shooting (60.9 percent) to the Irish, as St. John’s answered with a slim 10-of-30 (33.3 percent) from the field.

St. John’s stayed close to the
Irish until the 7:07 mark of the first half. Notre Dame went on to extend its lead to 12 for the first time at the 4:46 mark when the score was 29-17, and again during the final stretch of the half with 46 seconds remaining, 33-21.