(Christian Jones – @StJohnsRedStorm)
The St. John’s Red Storm are out of the Big East Tournament, as they lost to Marquette, 101-93, on Wednesday night in the first round.
St. John’s played some of the best basketball of their season in their attempt to upset Marquette, as they came back from a 50-38 halftime deficit to take an 89-88 lead on a Ron Mvouika three with 3:14 left.
Henry Ellenson responded with a three of his own to give Marquette 91-89 lead at the 3:00 mark. It stayed that way until Traci Carter made free throws to give them a 93-89 edge with 1:38 left. Jajuan Johnson got a three-point play with 22 seconds left to make it 99-93 Marquette and seal the win.
In the first season with Chris Mullin as their head coach, St. John’s finished the season 8-24 overall and 1-17 in the Big East.
St. Johns’ was led by Christian Jones, who had 29 points on 13-21 from the field, with seven rebounds and two assists. Federico Mussini had 15 points (4-9 FG, 1-3 threes), a rebound and an assist. Durand Johnson finished with 13 points on 5-9 from the field, 3-5 on threes, with four rebounds and three assists.
Mullin said of the game, “It was a great second half. I thought it was well played. Both teams had 50 from the field, 50 from three. High 80s from the line. So I thought it was a well-played game.
“You know, much like our whole season, I was proud of my guys’ effort. We had a tough first half. Regrouped. And just didn’t give up. Ultimately at the free-throw line is where we got beat. But you know, early in the first half we had quite a few turnovers, unforced turnovers that got them that lead. But I was proud of their performance. C.J. had an incredible game. Ron and D.J. and Felix, the guys who were leaving, I told them I was really proud of them. Me going through my first season, they made, despite the record, coming to the gym every day enjoyable, because they worked so hard.
“Tough season, but tonight was a pretty good way to — especially the second half. I thought it was a good half.”
Mullin said of what he wants to be his memory of the season when the guys look back on the season next year, five years down the line, “I think what they will be remembered for is having a professional, positive energy approach each and every day. We went through some tough times. There’s a lot of clichés out there and a lot of stuff hanging on the bulletin boards but to actually go and do it is when you can look each other in the eye and feel good about your effort.
“Again, the results are frustrating. Don’t get me wrong. That’s a lot to deal with. But the future is bright. And part of it is going through these tough times, not blaming the past, not worrying about the future, but taking each day, handling the tough emotions that go with losing, and having a productive day trying to find solutions. Like I said, not finger-pointing, not blaming. Just go to work.
“So after this long season, that’s what they did. They didn’t talk about it. They didn’t, you know, they didn’t waver at all. That’s what they did each and every day. They’ll be better for it as they move on into different careers. The guys who are leaving. I know for sure the young guys, because of them, understand that that’s what you do. And then you do that when you win too, by the way. When you win 10 or 15 in a row, that’s also when you come to work.
“We’ll flip it around and we’ll have the same approach. And I think that’s how you really build success. Like I said, it’s a lot harder to do it, but those guys, they did it. I saw it each and every day. I’m proud of them for that. I do think it will serve them well as we move forward,” said Mullin.
Christian Jones said of improvement they made over the course of the year despite the record, “With the freshmen that we have, I feel like we all hit a wall. Went through adversity, losing that many games in a row. But with the coaching staff that we have, they kept pushing us every day in practice. And that motivated us, that gave us the drive. Even when we were down 20, we were still fighting. As you can see, we improved game by game.
“But I felt like everybody hit a wall, and then we just got over that wall. Like today. Today we were down however much and we came back. But, I mean, we just need to find a way to get over that hump and break through. I mean, we didn’t today. But it was much improvement from the younger guys,” Jones said.
Mullin said of looking at this season as the start of something they’re rebuilding and something he can look towards in the future, “Yeah. Look, again, you can’t — we could have won a few more games for sure, and then our record would be a little different, but I don’t think the future mindset would change. You know, we know we have a lot of work to do. So the young guys understand what it takes to win and they know how much it hurts to lose. Sometimes that’s what gets your attention the most. Again, winning and losing is part of sports. It’s part of it. The thing is how you handle it and what you do about it. That’s probably the biggest teacher that we had this year.”