St. John’s suffers ugly letdown loss after win over Villanova


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Against Villanova on Sunday, St. John’s fell behind by 19 points in the first half and roared back. Against Providence on Wednesday, St. John’s fell behind by 12 points in the first half and then ballooned the misery into a 28-point deficit.

Against Villanova, St. John’s beat the Big East leader. Against Providence, St. John’s stunk like a rotten egg, losing 78-59 to a lower conference resident.

There was a big difference. Against Villanova, the Red Storm showed up. Now let’s not be hasty. St. John’s, which also swept No.11 Marquette, could be arriving at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center any hour now.

“It’s hard to understand, hard to figure out,” said St. John’s coach Chris Mullin whose team lost the game and whose senior leader, Marvin Clark II, lost his cool.

The Johnnies’ no-show effort resulted in a disastrous mauling at the hands of the more physical Friars, who completed a season sweep and held the Red Storm to their second-lowest point total. The worst scoring effort of the season? That was the 56 points St. John’s managed against Providence in a 70-56 loss at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 9.

“We didn’t play hard. They played harder than us. Similar to the first game and there were the same results,” said Mustapha Heron, who missed the first meeting with Providence due to injury, but unfortunately endured Wednesday’s mess, scoring eight points.

It was a mess, in all ways. There was Clark fouling out, with his fifth foul a technical, and then receiving a subsequent technical for continued grousing from the bench.

There were the Friars, behind Nate Watson (21 points, nine rebounds) and Harlem product Alpha Diallo (16 points, 11 rebounds) manhandling St. John’s inside.

Providence's Nate Watson dunks over Josh Roberts (left) and Mustapha Heron.
Providence’s Nate Watson dunks over Josh Roberts (left) and Mustapha Heron.AP

There was a Red Storm start (0-for-8 shooting, three turnovers) not even Lou Carnesecca could forgive.

There was more. A recent funk continued for Shamorie Ponds (four points, 2-of-9 shooting). Ponds shot 2-of-14 against Villanova. A bright spot? LJ Figueroa led St. John’s for a second straight game, scoring 16 points.

Mullin has seen much of this before. But aside from Ponds’ shooting, not against Villanova.

“Actually we had this on film already from the last time we played Providence. It’s the same game, Part 2,” Mullin said. “We were lethargic.”

Relax St. John’s fans. Maybe your team is tanking.

The Red Storm (19-8, 7-7 Big East) charged from the gate … and right into a 9-0 deficit thanks to that shooting drought and the turnovers. And the first half was awful, although St. John’s was within 34-26 at the half. So the Red Storm regrouped and came back out ready for another comeback — that lasted 63 seconds before Mullin called a timeout.

A.J. Reeves banged home a Providence 3-pointer, and after Figueroa missed for the Red Storm, Watson scored low for a Friars 39-26 lead.

Then the technical craziness began. At the 17:28 mark, Clark was called for his fourth foul and he protested. A lot. He earned his fifth foul and was gone after an eight-minute scoreless (pointless?) performance. On the bench, Clark kept yapping and was hit with another technical. When all that free-throw shooting was done at 17:00, Providence (15-12, 5-9) led, 43-30.

“He apologized [after],” Heron said of Clark. “It’s a high-emotion game. He was frustrated. Who wouldn’t be frustrated in a game like that? He picks up his fourth foul and gets a tech right after. Who’s not going to be frustrated on the bench?”
Mullin was more direct.

“I told him he didn’t show up,” Mullin said. “It wasn’t a question. It was a statement.”

So Mullin, who said Ponds is physically fine — although he had a lengthy pause before answering “no” about a possible injury — said St. John’s has only one path now.

“We’ve got to put it behind us,” he said. “We’ve got four games left. We’ve got to regroup.”



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