St. John’s basketball has NCAA Tournament dreams crushed by Seton Hall.
The NCAA Tournament hopes of both the St. John’s basketball program and the Seton Hall Pirates rested on the Thursday matinee in Manhattan.
St. John’s earned a first round bye into the Big East Tournament quarterfinals and had its highest seed, No. 4, since it took the title at Madison Square Garden back in 2000.
Everything seemed to be falling the Johnnies’ way until moments before tipoff.
It had Big East Freshman of the Year Posh Alexander back, bubble teams were losing, No. 8 seeded Georgetown upset No. 1 seed Villanova, and the path to the semifinals and championship game of the Big East Tournament was there.
All St. John’s had to do was beat Seton Hall, a team that blew an 18-0 lead and lost by ten to the Red Storm just five days prior.
Then news broke that center Isaih Moore would not be available to play due to contact tracing after coming into close contact with a St. John’s Tier-1 personnel member who had tested positive for COVID-19.
That was followed by the Johnnies missing clutch shots down the stretch of its 77-69 overtime loss.
“Our guys have nothing to hang their heads about,” head coach Mike Anderson said via Zoom following the game.
The teams traded runs throughout the first 38 minutes but Marcellus Earlington made his way to the corner at The Garden and drilled a 3-pointer which tied the game at 60 with two minutes to play.
St. John’s would take a 62-60 lead after two free throws by Rasheem Dunn but after a Pirates timeout, Myles Cale used a screen to get all the way to the basket to tie things with 54 seconds to play.
Red Storm sophomore star Julian Champagnie passed up on an open corner three-pointer to take a mid-range jumper that missed and the Johnnies had to come up with two stops in the closing seconds as St. John’s failed to secure a defensive rebound on a missed floater by Sandro Mamukelashvili.
Seton Hall won the battle on the backboards, 49-40, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds, resulting in 18 second chance points.
The Pirates had the best two players on the floor in Mamukelashvili and Jared Rhoden, who combined for 39 points and 27 rebounds.
St. John’s never led in overtime as its overall shooting struggles carried over to the extra five minutes as the home team was 2-of-9 from the field and missed all five of its three-point attempts.
As a team, the Red Storm shot 32.9-percent from the floor and 24.0-percent from three-point range.
“This team is going to be really special in the future,” senior guard Rasheem Dunn said.
Dunn finished with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting while Champagnie lead the team with 16 points on 7-of-21 shooting but was just 2-of-9 in the second half and in overtime.
St. John’s has now lost all three of its overtime games this season but Thursday was its highest scoring output in the extra session this season with seven points.
St. John’s basketball hopes to keep its season going
While the quest for a Big East Championship and National Championship has come to an end for the Johnnies, there is still a very real possibility that the Red Storm could be invited to the NIT.
The NIT will be held in the Dallas-Fort Worth region next week in a bubble environment with 16 teams being invited to the event.
St. John’s did not feel comfortable traveling to face Texas Tech earlier this season but head coach Mike Anderson would welcome the opportunity to continue this season, saying “I think it would be beneficial [to play].”
Anderson also said that “[St. John’s] will continue to play” if invited to the NIT.
The NIT selection show will be held at 8:30pm on Sunday, March 14 and can be seen on ESPNU.
If the Johnnies are not invited to the tournament, the St. John’s basketball team will end the season with a 16-11 record and hope to reach the NCAA Tournament next season.