Johnnies Muzzle Pitt Scoring
Threat, Go On To 82–58 Win
It seemed as if the pressure had been building all season to the first Big East basketball game—and the St.John’s Red Storm were more than ready. In fact, the Johnnies exploded off the launching pad and put on a textbook display of how to play great team defense.
The result: The Red Storm (9-2, 1-0) hardly allowed a bewildered University of Pittsburgh team to set up for a play as the Johnnies gave up only 14 points in the first half en route to an impressive 82-58 win on Jan. 3rd, at a sold-out Alumni Hall.The 14 points were the fewest allowed in a first-half by a St.John’s team since the Johnnies did it against the University of Miami on Jan. 14, 1992 in a 45-42 loss.
This time the Red Storm came out on top in a very big way.Erick Barkley had another "game of the week" performance—scoring 25 points, with six assists and four steals.As a team, the Red Storm collected 14 steals and senior Bootsy Thornton had six of them, a career high.Thornton, known as a definite scoring threat, equaled his career high with seven assists.He also chipped in with 12 points.Five Red Storm players scored in double-figures.
Courtesy SJU Media Guide
Bootsy Thornton had a career high of six steals.
Head Coach Mike Jarvis had a feeling that his players were really ready for this game. "I sensed a little bit more hunger in the player’s eyes, in their stomachs, a lot more concentration,"Jarvis said. The team started out with a stifling zone press and forced the Pitt players into making a lot of early turnovers which led to easy Red Storm buckets.Before long, the Storm had built up a very big 26-4 lead.During the run, forward Reggie Jessie made a no look behind-the-back pass to Thornton who went in for the layup and the fans loved it.In another play, Jessie faked his man out and measured his shot off glass for two points.
The Red Storm’s defense was outstanding in the first half. Barkley said that after the Christmas break the team practiced on the full court press.Well, Pittsburgh fell victim to that strategy in the conference opener. Pitt’s new coach, Ben Howland, gave credit to the Storm’s defensive effort."These guys did a really good job of hawking the ball and you got to give a lot of credit to their defensive pressure,"Howland said.The Panthers had 17 of its 25 turnovers in the first half.
The Panthers (8-4, 0-1) tried to bring the ball up the court but the Red Storm pressure defense denied them the chance to set up to even take a good shot. And, whenPitt did manage to get a shot off, it often missed.ThenSt. John’s would race down the court, find the open man, and score the easy basket. "If you’re doing something well and you’re disciplined enough and patient enough to do that, that’s when things get snowballed,"Jarvis said.
Pitt only shot 25 percent from the floor in the first half on six of 24 shot attempts. Forward Ricardo Greer, the Panthers leading scorer this season (17 points per game), only managed five points in the first half.Greer also praised the Red Storm’s defense effort. "They came out real aggressive and we just didn’t match their intensity in the first half—that really hurt us throughout the game,"Greer said.
The Storm had an amazing 45-14 half-time lead and went on cruise control for much of the second half. The Panthers did get their offense going, with Greer scoring 15 second half points,but it was way too late to make a difference.The Red Storm led by 36 points, 60-24, at one point in the second half, Senior Chudney Gray came off the bench and scored 13 points in 23 minutes of action.
The Red Storm players looked for each other throughout the game and made some beautiful passes to the open man for the score. "It is an unselfish team,"Jarvis said of his players. The Red Storm had 22 assists for the game. Jarvis noted that the point guard,Barkley, would often make the first pass before the assist.It didn’t matter as long as someone on St. John’s scored the hoop.
A Red Storm highlight in the second half came whenThornton made a nifty pass to Gray who went up for the layup. The Johnnies’ fans roared in appreciation. That play made it 68-38 St.John’s and it was just a matter of the clock ticking down until the game was in the "W" column.