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SJU listless in blowout loss to Providence

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The roller coaster ride continued for the St. John’s University men’s basketball team. Five days after upsetting the No. 21 ranked Miami Hurricanes at Alumni Hall, the Red Storm blew into Rhode Island and got blown out by the Providence College Friars, 78-57, Saturday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

The much-anticipated match-up between the lightning fast Marcus Hatten of SJU and Providence’s defensive specialist John Linehan did not live up to the hype, but the bruising action the Big East has become known for was in full effect.

Bodies banged all afternoon, as the two teams traded blows through the first 10 minutes. But what was a competitive game early quickly turned into a whitewash as the Friars established control on back-to-back threes by Abdul Mills and Linehan turned a 15-15 tie into a 21-15 Providence advantage.

St. John’s would never seriously challenge again.

“I thought we learned our lesson, but I guess we haven’t,” said St. John’s head coach Mike Jarvis. “We took the day off but we didn’t call in sick.”

The Friars’ lead ballooned to 12 at halftime after Hatten failed to convert on a three-on-one fast break and Providence’s Ryan Gomes scored while being fouled moments later to make the score 37-25.

It only got worse from there.

A Hatten three-pointer moments into the second half cut the lead back to 10, but Maris Laksa responded with a three of his own seconds later. And when Eric King converted a three-point soon after, Linehan buried another three.

The outside shot fell all day for the Friars, who hit 10-of-21 from behind the arc, while St. John’s hit just 4-of-21 and shot a dismal 33 percent from the field to Providence’s 50 percent.

Linehan, while never truly able to keep Hatten in check on defense, did most of his damage on the other end, scoring 20 points on 5-of-9 from the field, 3-of-4 from three, dishing out nine assists and grabbing six rebounds. The Big East leader in steals also snatched two.

Mills and Laksa added 15 and 11 points, respectively.

For St. John’s, Hatten was the high man with 21 points, seven steals, six rebounds and three assists, but his teammates never got into a rhythm. Eric King added 13 points and six boards while Willie Shaw scored 10. The Red Storm got only six points off the bench.

The game nullified what had been the team’s best effort to date, a 71-60 win over Miami Jan. 8 in which the team played inspired basketball for 40 minutes, out-hustling a ranked Hurricanes team that brought a gaudy 14-1 record into Jamaica.

Such was the case last month when the Red Storm upset ranked Wake Forest only to lose big to Pittsburgh 10 days later.

Next up for the Johnnies will be a trip north to take on the Boston College Eagles Thursday at 7 p.m. before returning to New York Sunday to host former Hofstra coach Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats Sunday at 2 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. St. John’s will play at Connecticut Wednesday Jan. 23, at 7:30 p.m.

Notes: Senior Sharif Fordham, perhaps the team’s best man-to-man defender did not travel with the team to Rhode Island because of an intestinal infection....Sophomore Kyle Cuffe returned to action after missing four straight game with an eye injury. He finished with two points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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