St. John's embracing pressure heading into must-win game against Seton Hall

The Red Storm are not feeling the heat of the NCAA Tournament entering the NCAA Tournament

Feb 28, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; St. John's Red Storm head coach Rick Pitino gestures to
Feb 28, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; St. John's Red Storm head coach Rick Pitino gestures to / Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

You would think there would be a great amount of pressure on the shoulders of the St. John's basketball team entering Thursday's critical matchup against Seton Hall.

A win and the Johnnies are likely in the NCAA Tournament. A loss and the Red Storm could find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble on Sunday night.

But Rick Pitino says his team is thriving on the pressure that March brings.

“I love [the word pressure]. I think it’s the greatest word for any competitor," Pitino said.

The Hall of Famer referenced Billy Jean King's famous quote of "pressure is a privilege" before explaining that "pressure, to me, is your ally, your best friend in life. Stress is your enemy. This is what we live for, these moments."

St. John's has been under pressure over the last three weeks of the season, in more ways than one.

It was under pressure to win five consecutive games, which it has, in order to have a chance at earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and did so after remarks from Pitino following its blown 19-point lead against Seton Hall that caused a national media storm around the team.

"We have known for the past five or six games that we kind of had to win out. So, it’s not really anything new," Jordan Dingle said. "The only thing I will say is at this point we know if we lose it may very well be our last game."

Dingle has been a major factor during the St. John's winning streak, averaging 13.4 points over the last five games, and been an X-Factor all season long.

When the UPenn transfer scores at least 10 points, the Johnnies are 12-4 on the season. They are 7-6 when he scores anything less, in addition to having lost both games he did not play.

"I wouldn’t necessarily call that pressure, but if you want to refer to it as that I don’t think it’s a bad thing," he continued. "I think that’s where people really get the chance to rise to the occasion and everybody is going to step up their game.”

St. John's needs every player to step up against the Pirates, who swept the Johnnies in the regular season. Dingle did not play in the first meeting in Newark because of COVID-19 and was limited to just nine points in the rematch, shooting 1-for-7 from 3-point range.

"I think we are all under the pressure when you get to this time of year," Pitino added. "Pressure makes it fun."

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