The St. John’s basketball team is hoping to learn from its past blunders against Marquette.
It looked to be destiny that the St. John’s basketball program would finally return to the Big East Tournament semifinals last season for the first time since 2000.
The Red Storm held a 17-point second half lead in the quarterfinals against Villanova before everything came crashing down to a last second heart-breaking defeat which left the Johnnies out of the postseason in its entirety.
Now, St. John’s has the chance to clinch that elusive berth to Friday night at Madison Square Garden but top-seed Marquette stands in its path.
“But I’m trying to think about the present. We’ve got a great team coming in tomorrow. We know what’s at stake and what we have to do to perform.”
Junior guard Posh Alexander took a different approach to trying to use last year’s disappointment as motivation for this season, “Every time I play I think about when we played against Villanova.”
“Things happen. That’s basketball and there’s always another opportunity and this is the opportunity we have now.”
It’ll be a tall task against a Marquette team that swept the Johnnies in the regular season, most recently a two point victory on Saturday in Milwaukee, however, the Golden Eagles led by 10 points, 93-83, with 23.2 seconds left before the Red Storm nearly capped off an improbable comeback.
St. John’s led by seven points at halftime in the first meeting between the two teams on January 3 in Queens before surrendering 55 points in the second half in an 11-point defeat.
“I think it could be [an advantage],” head coach Mike Anderson said if playing a team twice in the same week could favor either of the teams.
“But at the same time it’s a quick turnaround for us just playing [Wednesday].”
Marquette won the Big East regular season championship by two games and sports Tyler Kolek, the conference’s player of the year, and Shaka Smart, the Big East Coach of the Year.
St. John’s basketball knows what it has to focus on
It is not a secret that St. John’s has to make a much more concerted effort on the defensive end of the floor should it want to have a chance at competing with Marquette after the Golden Eagles scored 96 points on the Red Storm in each game this season.
“That whole game just came toughness and playing defense,” Alexander said of his team’s performance a week ago.
“[Thursday] is really going to come down to defense.”
Marquette averages 81.0 points per game while shooting 49.5-percent from the field and 35.4-percent from 3-point territory.
“If we play our brand of defense and we control our turnovers I think we’ll come out with the win,” Soriano added.
A win would send shockwaves throughout the St. John’s fanbase, which has been clamoring for a return to the top of the conference for the better part of 15 years.
“It would be great,” Alexander explained if he was able to lead the program to its first conference semifinal appearance in 23 years.
“If we do that we will have a lot of love in our city, like we do now.”
Perhaps the soft spoken freshman AJ Storr said it best surrounding the vibes around the Red Storm entering Thursday afternoon, “I just want to win.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 12:00p.m. ET (FS1) and the winner will play either Connecticut or Providence on Friday night.