NEW YORK (AP) -- Providence and St. John's had a Sunday that reflected their seasons.
The 13th-ranked Friars set a Big East record for points in a
first half in a 103-78 victory that clinched a first-round bye in
the conference tournament and matched their record for league wins.
St. John's lost another player from its already depleted roster
and was eliminated from playing in the Big East tournament, which
is held at Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm's home court.
"Our guys continue to impress me with everything they do. The
maturity level is outstanding," Providence coach Tim Welsh said.
"They're feeling it now. They're feeling good about themselves and
they realize great things could lie ahead."
St. John's is playing out the string of a season of player
punishments that has the Red Storm down to four scholarship players
and eight total. The latest player to be disciplined is senior
captain Andre Stanley, a graduate student who was suspended this
weekend for academic reasons.
St. John's coach Kevin Clark said Stanley's status "will be
decided this week."
Senior forward Kyle Cuffe of the Red Storm (6-19, 1-13) said his
attitude was "that so much has already happened to this team,
let's just get ready to go. It's already been a hard year. This is
just more stuff we have to get past."
Ryan Gomes had 19 points and 11 rebounds, his 12th double-double
of the season, for the Friars (20-5, 11-3), who shot 59.5 percent
from the field (22-for-37) in taking a 62-38 halftime lead.
The previous conference record for points in a first half was
set by Providence when it scored 61 against Georgetown on Feb. 10,
The Friars were three points off the school record for points in
a half. They scored 65 in the second half against Pittsburgh on
Feb. 10, 1990.
The win was the sixth straight and 12th in 14 games for
Providence, which moved into a three-way tie for first place in the Big East
with Connecticut and No. 3 Pittsburgh, which lost to Syracuse 49-46 in overtime on Sunday, ending the Panthers' 40-game home win streak.
"It was a difficult game knowing the struggles they've been
through," said Providence's Sheiku Kabba, who had 11 points. "We
played hard through parts of the game, a game you have expected us
to play hard through the whole game."
Gomes said it will be hard to think of Tuesday's matchup against
Pittsburgh as just another game.
"It's for first place in the Big East and the conference
title," he said. "It's us being where we wanted to be and we've
working hard since October to get to this point."
Daryll Hill had 24 points and nine assists for St. John's.
The Red Storm are 1-5 since five players were punished for
breaking curfew to visit a Pittsburgh-area strip club, and 4-15
under Clark, who was appointed interim coach when Mike Jarvis was
fired in December.
Gomes had 13 points and eight rebounds in Providence's big first
half. Rob Sanders, Donnie McGrath and Chris Anrin were all 2-for-4
from 3-point range in the first half as the Friars went 9-for-17
against St. John's zone defense.
A 3 by Anrin capped an 8-0 run that gave the Friars their
biggest lead of the half, 62-35 with 1:02 left. Providence came
into the game averaging 71.6 points.
Herbert Hill made two free throws with 1:45 left to give the
Friars a 101-72 lead. The last time St. John's gave up 100 points
was in a 105-80 loss at Indiana on Dec. 23, 1992.
Sanders had 15 points for the Friars, while Marcus Douthit had
13 and McGrath had 11.
The Friars were 11-5 in the Big East in 2000-01, the last time
the Friars were in the NCAA Tournament.
"When we come back in a week-and-a-half, I think we are going
to be ready to play well here," Welsh said of the conference
tournament. "We have won three of our last four games here so we
are starting to think we can play here."
Cuffe had 19 points and 10 rebounds for St. John's, while
7-foot-3 Curtis Johnson had a career-high 14 points.
The Red Storm lost senior Willie Shaw early in the season when
he was suspended over a drug arrest.
Earlier this month, a curfew-breaking trip to a strip club near
Pittsburgh saw senior Grady Reynolds expelled from school and
leading scorer Elijah Ingram withdraw from school and seniors Abe
Keita and Mohamed Diakite and freshman Lamont Hamilton suspended
from the program.