The No. 10/10 Creighton Blue Jays soared over St. John’s, spoiling the Red Storm’s bid at an upset and chance to stay unbeaten in the conference.
The Johnnies, who defeated both Butler and DePaul in the opening games in the Big East Conference, came up short in the paint. From the left corner and the right corner, Creighton’s wingers deposited alley-op after alley-op, leaping like frogs from every crevice of Carnesecca Arena in the 85-72 win.
“We were moving too slow,” Head Coach Chris Mullin said. “Just too slow for me.”
The man in the Creighton jersey moving at a different speed was Justin Patton, the Blue Jays’ seven-foot-tall freshman who compiled 25 points. The youngster raised eyebrows on the St. John’s bench.
“Marcus Camby,” Mullin said. “That’s who he reminds me of.”
In the paint, where the Johnnies tout their own big men, Creighton feasted. By a 52-24 margin, the Blue Jays terrorized every morsel of the rim. Tariq Owens, Kassoum Yakwe, and Darien Williams combined for just two blocks.
Offensively for the Johnnies, guards Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds combined to score 40 points. The youngster Ponds, who had 17 of the 30, has had to learn on-the-fly against the nation’s top teams. However, in spite of recent wins at Syracuse and against Butler, the Brooklyn native thinks that Creighton has been the most prolific.
“By far they have been the toughest team we’ve played, at least physically,” he said. “They’re tough. It’s going to be hard to beat them on the road too.”
St. John’s fell behind 44-26 at half, but cut the deficit to eight points with 6:17 left in regulation. LoVett’s 23 game points glowed in the second half, along with Owens’ 12. But Mullin believes that the second half as a whole took a toll on the Red Storm.
“We tried,” he said. “We hung in there. But we got in such a big hole [that we couldn’t shake their confidence].”
Creighton unloaded during countless possessions to capitalize on defensive breakdowns and mismatches in the post. At times, even though the Blue Jays lead by double digits, they played with such a fire that it seemed they were playing from behind.
Head Coach Craig McDermott’s preparation for St. John’s stemmed from outright fear. St. John’s’ dismantling of Syracuse by 33 points terrified the nationally-ranked coached.
With brutal honesty, he called playing St. John’s something that scared him “to death.”
Hope, however, does not cease for the young Red Storm. Creighton’s out-of-this-world level of play catapulted into Queens as a Top 10 team should. But the feeling that lasts, at least for those who watched on national television, comes from a tough setlist. Just minutes before tip-off, No. 18 Butler stunned No. 1 Villanova in Indianapolis, snapping the Wildcats’ 20-game winning streak. For a St. John’s team that recently topped Butler, Syracuse, and DePaul, the limelight of primetime might have come a bit too prematurely.
But such is life in the Big East Conference, a grouping that holds four of the nation’s Top 18 teams. St. John’s travels to Ohio for a Friday night meeting with No. 16 Xavier and then a Sunday road contest with Georgetown.