by Josh Adams
Queens, NY— The optimism was palpable on Tuesday evening at Carnesecca Arena as 4,771 St. John’s fans hoped their Red Storm team would get their first Big East Conference win against Creighton. Ushers handed out red rally towels that said, “We Are New York’s Team” and the student section was full and boisterous as usual during player introductions. After a heartbreaking loss at Georgetown that saw the Red Storm give up a five point lead in the final 29 seconds, the crowd hoped the basketball gods would shine upon some favoritism on the home team and give the team and the fans a much needed win. Alas, the win would have to come some other night as the Creighton Blue Jays emerged victorious behind stellar guard play from Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas and handed the Red Storm a 68-63 loss that left the Johnnies with an 0-9 record in Big East Conference play. To add injury to insult, the Red Storm lost their best player, Shamorie Ponds, in the early part of the second half to a leg injury. The already thin roster, depleted by injuries couldn’t handle the Blue Jays ability to counter punch every St. John’s run with a big shot of their own. In a season full of deflating losses, this one stung a little bit more than the others.
It didn’t look good from the start for the home team. Both teams were anemic in getting the ball through the hoops during the first minutes of the contest. As Creighton went on a little run, the Red Storm offense seemed out of sorts with no one moving without the ball. St. John’s started the game shooting 1 for 12 from the field. On defense the St. John’s team couldn’t stop the Blue Jays Toby Hegner, who hit several three pointers to boost the Creighton lead. The home Red Storm had a tough time keeping up with Foster and Thomas and looked out of sorts with Creighton’s motion offense. It was a sharp contrast to St. John’s offense that had little movement and were often forced to take bad shots with the shot clock winding down. Even though St. John’s shot 28% from the field in the first half, they were only down eleven at halftime.
The second half was a different story for the Red Storm. They awoke and started putting together little runs that chipped away at Creighton’s lead. Justin Simon and Brian Trimble hit some three pointers for the Red Storm that brought them within single digits of the Blue Jays and brought the crowd back into the ballgame. It was a short lived enthusiasm as Thomas and Foster put the game away with timely buckets that quelled any possibility of a St. John’s win. With the Red Storm forced to foul in the last minute, the Blue Jays put the game away at the free throw line and gave Creighton (16-5, 6-3) the win.
Foster led the Blue Jays with 24 points. Thomas added 19 points and Hegner had 16 in the win. Creighton returns home to Omaha to play Georgetown on Saturday.
To St. John’s and their players credit, they didn’t make excuses after the game. They have been close in the bulk of their losses and Simon echoed the sentiment that the elusive first conference win is coming. “We are right there”, said Simon, “It’s just the little things throughout the whole game that bite us at the end.”
Simon had 17 points for the Red Storm on Tuesday. Tariq Owens added 14 points for St. John’s. The team travels to Indianapolis this weekend to take on Butler.
Red Storm Coach Chris Mullin insisted that this team will persevere and when I asked him if he had a message to the St. John’s fans about the state of his team he replied, “My first statement was that the easiest thing to do was give up, but that’s not happening. That’s not what anyone came here for. We’re going to work through it. I don’t know that give-up world. I’m not about that at all. I keep coming, keep fighting, keep throwing blows, and keep showing up. That’s what I’m about. That’s what my players are about. I guess that’s a mindset or DNA, but no giving up ever. You have to put me in the ground. You have to bury me. That’s when I’ll give up.”
The season is far from over for St. John’s and while any postseason hopes are probably gone the mentality of Mullin and his Red Storm team is crystal clear. Play hard, no excuses and correct the mental mistakes. The coach and the team and the city aren’t giving up anytime soon. It’s not what New Yorkers do.