St. John’s received a mulligan. It declined the opportunity.
It had another chance with a lead. Again, it couldn’t close. Poor shot selection, woeful defense and careless turnovers could be blamed.
And so another bad start in league play has arrived for the Johnnies following this dismal loss to Georgetown, the projected worst team in the Big East. They are 0-2 in the league for the third time in four years after this unsightly 97-94 overtime setback in the nation’s capitol with No. 8 Creighton coming to Queens on Thursday.
“I’ll take the blame for that one there,” coach Mike Anderson said over Zoom after the Johnnies fell to 1-10 in Big East road games under his watch. “I’ll just take the blame. I didn’t put them in the right position at the right time. … We were in position to win this game.”
St. John’s coughed up a seven-point lead in the final 2:32 of regulation. In the extra session, it was up four before failing to break through, producing just two points over the final 3:59. Isaih Moore had his shot blocked, one of nine Qudus Wahab rejections, in the final seconds with the chance to tie. Down one on the previous possession, Vince Cole took a contested long 3-pointer that was badly off target.
There were so many opportunities for St. John’s to take command. They went ahead by nine early in the second half. They were up seven with 2:32 to go. They had the lead in overtime. Each time, Anderson’s team failed to capitalize, ruining a breakthrough 26-point, 14-rebound performance from Moore and wasting one of Posh Alexander’s best efforts of the young season.
Ultimately, their defense — an Anderson staple his entire career — let them down. Georgetown (3-3, 1-1) shot 54 percent from the field and made 11-of-23 3-point attempts. Unheralded freshman point guard Dante Harris was forced into a starting role due to injury and torched St. John’s (5-3, 0-2) for 22 points.
“I think we got to take just a bit more pride in it,” Anderson said. “Our defense is not where we want it to be right now.”
The blown lead late in regulation was the killer. It was 82-75 St. John’s following an 8-0 run. The game felt close to over. It wasn’t. Alexander made a freshman mistake, fouling Harris in the backcourt with the Johnnies over the limit. Moore and Cole followed with turnovers and Jahvon Blair hit consecutive 3-pointers to give Georgetown the lead with 43.3 seconds left. A terrific Alexander find on an out-of-bounds play to Williams at the buzzer saved St. John’s for the moment, forcing overtime.
It, however, would only prolong the pain. Now St. John’s returns to Queens, looking to win its conference home opener at Carnesecca Arena. It won’t be an easy task, facing one of the better teams in the country in Creighton. But Anderson doesn’t expect this loss to create a snowball effect.
“It won’t define us,” he said. “We were better in a lot of areas than we were last game. This team will evolve. You see we got a lot of pieces. We just have to learn how to finish, that’s all. It ain’t defining time, it ain’t panicking time.”