Poor defense and rebounding hurt the St. John’s Red Storm in their 82-70 loss to Boston College in the quarterfinal round of the Preseason NIT Tip-Off tournament.
Though the game followed a back-and-forth pace, with multiple lead changes and momentum swings for both teams, a late second half push by the Eagles was simply too much for St. John’s to overcome.
The Red Storm came out uninspired on defense, as Boston College went on a 10-4 run in the first 26 seconds to open the game. Following two timeouts, a pair of Sean Evans free throws decreased a 16-9 Boston College lead, and a Paris Horne layup tied the game 16-16 with just over 11 minutes remaining.
“I told them to stay tough, and that we had to attack the paint [on offense],” head coach Norm Roberts said. “We had to get stops on defense though.”
Erratic defense hurt the Red Storm throughout the game. St. John’s had 11 fouls in the first half, and Boston College took advantage of the Red Storm’s sluggishness whenever it could. Joe Trapani patrolled the floor, shooting 7-10 from the field, including 2-3 from three-point range. He finished with 19 points.
When Trapani wasn’t shooting it, Tyrese Rice was penetrating the defense. He led all scorers with 28 and played the full 40 minutes.
St. John’s was outrebounded 42-28 for the game, with 17 Boston College rebounds coming on the offensive end. The Red Storm forced 15 turnovers, slightly better than their 14.5 season average.
One of the main reasons St. John’s remained competitive in this game was due to the prolific offensive play of Horne, who came off the bench for 12 first half points. He reached a new career-high with 14 before fouling out late in the second half.
“He gave us great energy, and hit some big shots for us early to keep us in the game,” Roberts said.
Horne elevated his offensive game on a night where D.J. Kennedy struggled. Kennedy, the superstar scorer of the team’s first two games, finished with eight points on 3-9 shooting after scoring over 20 points in each of his first two games this season. Sean Evans had 14 points and six rebounds as well.
More of the same defensive woes followed St. John’s in the early moments of the second half, as the Eagles took a 43-40 halftime lead and quickly made it 49-42. But the Red Storm remained tenacious, overcoming its second seven-point deficit of the game on a Justin Burrell dunk following a Kennedy three-pointer on the previous possession.
As the lead changes began to mount again, so too did the number of shots the Red Storm missed. St. John’s shot 45.9 percent from the field, and lost easy points on missed free throws.
However, Roberts maintained the team didn’t take bad shots.”We missed good shots. I want them to keep shooting the ball,” Roberts said. “I want them to be confident shooting the ball.”
A Trapani dunk with 6:50 remaining in the second half closed the door on any chance of St. John’s winning the game, as Boston College took a 61-57 lead and didn’t look back.
The Eagles will play No. 11 Purdue when the tournament picks up in the semifinal round on November 26th at Madison Square Garden.