Commentary

St. John's needs a tourniquet ... and fast

Following Wednesday's drubbing, Red Storm desperately need to stop the bleeding

Updated: January 13, 2011, 3:32 AM ET
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Nine days ago, St. John's set the college basketball world abuzz with a 61-58 win over then-No. 13 Georgetown at Madison Square Garden.

Nine days later, the Johnnies have come hurtling back to earth, after a 76-59 drubbing by No. 4 Syracuse.

"We kept it short and sweet tonight in the locker room," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "A game like this, when you've been thoroughly dominated, it's better to step away and then meet as a team tomorrow.

"No need to kinda beat up a group that's been beat down."

St. John's actually held a 15-7 lead with nine minutes remaining in the first half, aided by some ill-advised 3-point attempts and sloppy turnovers by the Orange. But it all fell apart from there. Syracuse finished the half on a 28-9 run, and the second half was no contest -- St. John's never got the margin closer than nine.

The postgame stat sheet was about as lopsided as it gets. Syracuse shot 31-for-54 from the field (57.4 percent), and had four players in double figures, led by Kris Joseph (18 points) and Brandon Triche (15).

St. John's shot a woeful 21-for-57 (36.8 percent) from the field, and was led by Justin Brownlee (13 points) and Dwight Hardy (12) -- although neither had a good shooting night. Brownlee was 5-for-13, Hardy 4-for-15 from the floor.

Lavin said Syracuse's trademark 2-3 zone gave his team problems. "Because of their size and length, there're just not many open looks at the rim or in the basket area," Lavin said. "Even when there appears to be an opening, it closes so quickly because they're tied together and they move in concert very well."

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was complimentary to the Red Storm after the game.

"Watching St. John's play coming into this game, they played very well," Boeheim said. "I was concerned about their defense. And I thought that we played -- except for that start -- as well offensively as we can play."

Truth be told, it's no surprise that St. John's lost this game -- Syracuse is unbeaten, now 17-0, for a reason. Nor was it a surprise that the Red Storm lost to then-No. 15 (ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Saturday.

What's concerning is that, outside of the first 11 minutes against Syracuse, St. John's looked severely outclassed in both games. Neither game was even as close as the final score indicated.

This loss was even more disappointing because it came at home, in front of the biggest crowd of the season. There were 14,440 fans in the house Wednesday night, and even though roughly half of them were wearing orange, the crowd was rocking for the Johnnies in those early minutes.

"The atmosphere was great. When we came out, I heard a lot of our fans cheering for us," St. John's forward Justin Burrell said. "I hope they stick with us.

"I mean, I can't expect them to cheer when it gets late like that and we're down by so many and not playing the style of basketball that they want to see and they're accustomed to seeing from us this year. So, definitely have to give an apology out there for that. But, I hope they stick with us."

The good vibes from that win over Georgetown are just about gone. The Red Storm face a rematch against Notre Dame on Sunday at the Garden, and a win is critical to stop the bleeding. Because after that, the Red Storm's next four are at Louisville (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP), versus 16-1 Cincinnati, at Georgetown (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) and versus No. 1 Duke.

St. John's will be an underdog in at least three of those four games.

The other time the Red Storm dropped two in a row this season -- shocking defeats against St. Bonaventure and Fordham back in December -- the team responded with a five-game winning streak. We'll see how the team bounces back this time.

"We've played three straight ranked teams," Lavin said. "We were able to nip Georgetown here, but then we've been beaten thoroughly against Notre Dame and Syracuse, and the ranked teams are gonna keep coming. So it's [about] how quickly we can make adjustments and elevate our level of play."

Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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