If a team beats Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke and Connecticut in the span of five weeks, it would usually settle all questions people have about that team.
Not with St. John’s, though. The Red Storm were beginning to become known as a team that was impossible to beat at Madison Square Garden, and extremely vulnerable everywhere else.
Going into Sunday’s game at Cincinnati, the Johnnies were just 2-6 in true road games, with three of those losses coming by at least 15 points.
Well, that might all change now. Earlier today, St. John’s went into Fifth Third Arena, where Cincinnati was 14-1 this season, and knocked off the Bearcats, 59-57.
Down the stretch, it looked like the Red Storm might let the win slip away, as they failed to make a field goal over the last 8:58, letting Cincinnati come back from 12-point deficit with a 17-2 run.
The turning point came with 42 seconds left, when Cincinnati’s Rashad Bishop committed a lane violation after a missed free-throw by Malik Boothe. At the time, the Bearcats were up one. Boothe proceeded to make both foul shots, providing the eventual game-winning points.
That lane violation could end up being the difference between the NCAA Tournament and the NIT for both Cincinnati and St. John’s. The Bearcats are now just 6-6 in the Big East, going 4-6 in their last 10 games after starting 15-0. With the only good wins coming against St. John’s and Xavier, Cincinnati still has a lot of work to do. A win here would have meant a lot.
For St. John’s, the Red Storm made a statement that they are more than just a good team at MSG. The win was their fourth in five games, moving them to 7-5 in the Big East – ahead of teams like Connecticut and Syracuse. A road record that isn’t a complete eyesore will be fine when combined with the multitude of quality wins the Johnnies have.
That’s how important today’s win was – it was more than just another top-50 win for St. John’s. Everyone knows the NCAA Tournament isn’t played at Madison Square Garden, and the Red Storm had not proved they could win away from New York City on a consistent basis. Throw in a few bad losses, and St. John’s was nowhere near a lock for the Big Dance.
Now, though, St. John’s probably just needs to win one of its three remaining road games – Marquette, Villanova, Seton Hall – and hold serve at home to solidify a berth.
And if the Red Storm do hear their name called on Selection Sunday, a quick thank you to Bishop for his ill-timed lane violation could be in order.Photo: AP