St. John’s marched short of a crushing loss to No. 17 Marquette

St. John’s marched short of a crushing loss to No. 17 Marquette

College basketball

It was only 10 days ago that St. John left the park full of energy, thinking he was on his way. It was tied atop the Big East standings, making its best start in the league in 23 years.

It feels like a lot longer than those 10 days.

Nothing has gone well since then.

St. John’s has lost three straight games after Saturday afternoon’s 73-72 setback to No. 17 Marquette, blowing away a 10-point halftime lead.

The Red Storm defense was nowhere to be found after halftime, allowing the Golden Eagles to shoot a ridiculous 75 percent from the field in the second half.

Rick Pitino’s return to the bench — after missing the loss to Seton Hall due to COVID-19 — didn’t solve the problems facing this team.

Dennis Jenkins of the St. John’s Red Storm drives to the basket while No. 13 Owusu Ighodaro of the Marquette Golden Eagles defends during the first half on Saturday. Robert Sabo for the New York Post

After absorbing a 28-0 lead in an ugly loss at Seton Hall on Tuesday, St. John’s was on the short end of a 28-10 stretch here on Saturday.

Co-stars Joel Soriano and Dennis Jenkins faltered until the final minutes.

Jenkins committed six turnovers and Soriano again had little impact, producing 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Johnnies’ MVP was RJ Luis Jr. Who scored a game-high 20 points, and Chris Leedlum added 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.

But St. John’s defense was the problem.

Marquette was unable to stop him after the break, allowing them to score 45 points in the second half.

St. John’s coach Rick Pitino saw his team lose a third straight game. Robert Sabo for the New York Post

It didn’t help that Naheem Allen (sprained right ankle) was lost in the first half, and Jordan Dingle (COVID-19) remained out.

Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kulek was unstoppable, finishing with 15 points and 11 assists, while Owusu-Ighodaro scored 17 points.

St. John’s came within one shot late and had several chances to equalize or go ahead, but couldn’t get over the hump.

Leadlum missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds, while Jenkins missed a free throw with 38.9 seconds left and his jumper failed at the buzzer.

Despite turnover problems (11) and a quiet half from Soriano (four points, three rebounds), St. John’s led by six points at the break.

Zobe Ejiofor of St. Louis. John’s Red Storm shoots the ball as #12 Ben Gould of the Marquette Golden Eagles lags behind on defense. Robert Sabo for the New York Post

The substitutes were a key factor, especially Zoby Ejiofor.

He had five points on a 14-2 run late in the second half, anchoring the paint defense and making a difference on the glass.

Marquette did not hit a 3-pointer in 11 first-half attempts and was limited to four points.

The Golden Eagles finished the half well and scored the final four points after trailing by 10 points.

After being bounced by 21 by Seton Hall, St. John’s was much better on the glass, plus 11 over the first 20 minutes.

Marquette’s momentum continued through the intermission.

David Joplin hit a 3-pointer and the Golden Eagles made nine of their first 11 shots in the second half to tie the score at 49 with 13:36 remaining, prompting a Pitino timeout.

Marquette didn’t slow down.

He kept stacking it, pushing the lead to four after a Kolek-to-Ighodaro alley-oop.

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