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If college basketball games were 35 minutes, not 40, St. John's probably would have won five of their last five games, instead of losing four out of five.
It was the same old song and dance Monday night at the Carrier Dome, as the Red Storm seemingly did everything right only to wilt down the stretch and lose to undefeated Syracuse, 63-57.
St. John's head coach Mike Jarvis' club led, 54-49, with 5:23 left on the clock when Anthony Glover converted a three-point play. St. John's had all the momentum in its favor, but just could not hang on.
"We were in great position to win the game," said point guard Erick Barkley. "We were right there. It's just going to take a little bit more effort in the last five minutes to really put a team away. I thought we had the experience, but I guess not."
St. John's went positively frigid in the final minutes. After Damone Brown's bucket pulled the Orangemen to within three, 54-51, with 4:28 remaining, Lavor Postell traveled, setting up Ryan Blackwell's three-pointer with 3:31 remaining, to tie the game.
Barkley was fouled on his next trip down, but missed both free throw attempts, making St. John's 1-for-7 from the line. St. John's forced a turnover, however, and Bootsy Thornton scored, giving St. John's the lead, if just for a moment.
Two free throws by Etan Thomas tied the game at 56 with 3:02 remaining. St. John's then tried to retake the lead when Chudney Gray went to the basket, but was cleanly blocked by Thomas.
Syracuse then broke downcourt and Jason Hart beat a smothering defense, finding Brown under the basket.
Brown went up and scored, being fouled in the process by Thornton. Thornton went to the bench with five fouls and Brown converted the three-point play, giving Syracuse a 59-56 lead with 1:58 remaining.
The only remaining point St. John's would score was a free throw from Glover with 16 seconds left in the game.
"You have to learn how to finish," said St. John's coach Mike Jarvis. "We just haven't learned how to do that yet."
Starting, however, does not seem to be a problem for St. John's.
After the Orangemen took a 4-0 lead, St. John's scored 12 of the next 14 points to take a 12-6 lead 13:13 into the game. Along the way, Barkley and Reggie Jessie worked the ball to the open man, as the Red Storm offense looked to be running as smooth as it ever had all season.
St. John's continued to click offensively, held its own on the boards and played tough zone defense. With just more than 10 minutes to play in the first half, St. John's led by seven, 16-9.
That's when Syracuse started to light it up from outside. Blackwell's three at 12:43 started a string of five consecutive threes by the Orangemen, including two each by Preston Shumpert and DeShaun Williams. The final three, at 5:07, broke a 21-21 tie and gave Syracuse a 24-21 lead.
But St. John's would not fade yet. Battling back against a tough team and a hostile crowd, St. John's outscored Syracuse 10-6 in the waning moments of the first half to take a 31-30 lead into the break.
The play of the Red Storm paved the way for St. John's dominance in the battle of the boards, 15-14, and the Johnnies' outshooting the Orangemen, 54 percent to 39 percent.
But numbers and statistics would mean little down the stretch, except for St. John's recent propensity for allowing teams back into games.
"We didn't have it tonight," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "They were very patient the whole game. We just had to hang in there."
Hang in there they did. The two teams battled on even terms throughout the second half, with mini-runs by both clubs sending the lead back and forth. When Syracuse went up by four, 43-39, with 12:31 remaining, St. John's rolled off 10 straight points to take a 49-43 lead.
Syracuse began to creep closer when Glover's three-point play with 5:23 remaining seemed to swing the momentum back to St. John's, when in fact it marked the Red Storm's end.
"We really wanted to come in here and more than anything prove to ourselves that we could play, that we're a team, that we could do all the little things to help us win," Chudney Gray said. "We were this close. We weren't able to get over the hump tonight."
Thornton led with 13, while Glover added 12 and three steals and Barkley scored 12 with five assists. Postell scored 10 and Jessie added eight with eight rebounds and five assists.
Brown, Hart and Williams all scored 12 for Syracuse.
The loss drops the now unranked Red Storm to 13-6 overall and 5-3 in the Big East.
Next up for St. John's are the Boston College Eagles Saturday at 12 noon at Alumni Hall. Following that game
St. John's will be back on the road to take on the Providence College Friars Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Notre Dame 73, St. John's 60. Notre Dame went on a 17-2 run to close the game against St. John's, which led for most of the game, but fell apart late in the second half.
Troy Murphy led the Fighting Irish with 30 points and 18 rebounds. Only one other player scored in double figures for Notre Dame.
St. John's got 15 apiece from Barkley and Thornton and 11 from Postell.
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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