Dunlap: We’ll be Fine

St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap gave a vehement defense of his young team’s performance and development after the men’s basketball team’s 79-76 overtime loss to Villanova Jan. 21.

 

The loss was the Red Storm’s fourth in a row, and sixth in their last seven games. But playing with the youngest team in the conference explains much of that, Dunlap said.

 

“We’re building something special, but it’s going to take time and there are no magic fixes,” he said. “It’s a wonderful journey with a group of guys that are just getting an understanding of what Big East basketball is all about.

 

“I don’t think anybody, other than the score, can say, ‘The competitive spirit sucked out there. They didn’t look like they were coached, or they didn’t look like they cared.’ All three marks were special and I really enjoy that.”

 

The Red Storm led by as many as 10 in the second half, but allowed Villanova to come back and send it into overtime. The team squandered an opportunity to win the game on their last possession of regulation by turning it over with under 10 seconds left. Down three in the closing seconds of overtime, Phil Greene lost control of the ball at the point. The ball ended up in the hands of freshman forward Sir’Dominic Pointer, who pump-faked and then front-rimmed a three-pointer to end the game.

 

Pointer entered the game shooting just 20 percent (5-of-25) from the three-point line, but Dunlap was happy with the courage his young forward showed.

 

“He would have been our fourth option, but that [play] was out of a scramble,” Dunlap said. “He would have been our first option out of a scramble. The fact that he took the shot, when we go in the locker room …” He then clapped his hands several times before adding, “Good job.”

 

The season hasn’t gone the way the players – some who predicted a national championship in the beginning of the season – anticipated. Without four of the nine players that composed the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class, they are second-to-last in the Big East in points per game and last in shooting percentage.

 

But Dunlap remains impressed with his players’ demeanor despite their struggles and the way they’ve dealt with the media during their losing stretch.

 

“These young guys, I marvel at their effort,” he said. “I marvel at the fact that they come in here and look [reporters] in the eye and address [their] questions in a good way. They don’t need to be defensive.”