The Red Storm took one more step towards a 20-win season and a tournament bid with a 72-64 victory over DePaul at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
St. John’s is on the bubble, and experts are weighing in on the Johnnies’ chances of making the tournament. Still, that is not the focus of the players.
“Our job is to win games,” D’Angelo Harrison said.
The consensus is that St. John’s needs to beat Marquette in its final regular season game on Saturday, and then win one game in the Big East tournament, maybe two. This would be the second tournament team of the Steve Lavin era.
“It’s similar but different to my first year,” Lavin said. “That was a group that had never been to the NCAA tournament. There was a plus to the built-in cohesiveness of that group.”
The coach noted that only one player on the current roster has been to the tournament.
If the Red Storm miss out, they can look back to the five-game losing streak that began conference play, and separated two strong stretches.
“We were 9-3 to start, then came the Murphy’s Law stretch from hell, then 10-3 since,” Lavin said. “That’s 19-6 sandwiched with that 0-5.”
DePaul handed St. John’s one of those losses in January, but the Red Storm looked to be in control, up by 20 on Sunday before nearly blowing the lead. A 26-9 run cut the lead to three, but St. John’s held on. Turnovers allowed the Blue Demons back into the game.
“It was reminiscent of the Keystone Cops, throw in Harold Lloyd there too,” Lavin said.
Despite the drama, the team was happy to come away with the victory.
“At this stage of the year, you’re not gonna get too caught up in grading W’s,” Lavin said.
St. John’s will likely enter the Big East tournament as the six-seed out of 10 teams.
“They certainly have to be a dark horse in the Big East tournament,” said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell, “because it’s in Madison Square Garden.”
– David Russell