Red Storm Nips UConn, 60-55 On Special Night At MSG
Last year the St. John’s Red Storm went into Cameron Indoor Stadium, the home court of the Duke University Blue Devils, and won an 83–82 thriller. But that was last year. And in the fast-paced world of college basketball, a whole lot can change in a year.
This year, St. John’s (13–11, 7–5) is starting three freshman players. Some key reserves are also first-year players. So when St. John’s and Duke tipped off last Sunday afternoon before a packed Madison Square Garden and a national television audience, it was a whole new ball game for the young and inexperienced Red Storm team.
Duke (23–3, 1–2), ranked No. 3 nationally, and a bona fide contender for the national title, played like champions and pasted the Red Storm 91–59. Duke came on strong in the second half, outscoring St. John’s 46–25, with great team play by some of the top players in the country.
Five Duke players scored in double figures. Jason Williams, a gifted sophomore, led the Duke attack with 26 points. Forward Shane Battier, who may just be the best defender in Division 1 basketball, had 18 points, eight rebounds, and seven blocks. Chris Duhon, a freshman, came off the bench and launched deadly three-point shots that often silenced the partisan St. John’s fans. Duhon chipped in with 15 points.
The Johnnies played hard to start the game. Freshman point guard Omar Cook fed forward Anthony Glover some beautiful passes which he converted for scores. Glover worked hard and established position in the low post and ended up with 19 points in the first half. But Glover’s game was the good news. In the second half, Duke concentrated on guarding Cook more closely so he could not set up his teammates. Glover ended up with 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Storm, but he cooled off in the second half. Forward Sharif Fordham got the nod to start the game and scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds.
The St. John’s offense is in a slump lately. The Red Storm shot only 35.7 percent from the floor, certainly not good enough to beat a great team like Duke. St. John’s connected on 10 for 36 field goals attempts in the second half for a paltry 27.8 percent. Omar Cook looked dejected after the game. He felt his team could have played better. "We’re way much better than that. We could have given them a better game," Cook said.
Duke took an 11-point lead into half time. Williams scored on a court-length drive to score a layup just before the horn sounded. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski thought that Williams’ score gave St. John’s something to think about going into the intermission. If that score didn’t get St. John’s attention, then the 8–0 run to start the second half by the Blue Devils did. Battier knocked down a trey and suddenly Duke was ahead 53–34. When the storm scored a basket, Duke countered within seconds. Whatever energy the Storm had to begin the game was fading under the stellar Duke play.
When Duhon connected on a trey to put Duke up 63–41 fairly early in the second half, the issue was all but settled. St. John’s couldn’t get its offense going, and it was a long second half for the home team.
The Red Storm now faces the stretch drive of the season. With 13 wins and 11 losses, the chances of making the upcoming National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament are fading fast. Perhaps the National Invitational Tournament beckons. If so, the Johnnies need to find some wins somewhere. The Red Storm’s next opponent is Georgetown University. The Hoyas are having a fine season. The game will be played at Madison Square Garden and the Johnnies will definitely have their work cut out for them.