Feb. 11, 2010
NEW YORK (Feb. 11, 2010 - Jim O'Connell, AP) - It didn't much matter who was in the building, St. John's just needed a win.
The Red Storm came through in front of a number of members of the school's 1985 Final Four team, snapping a five-game losing streak with a 74-55 victory over Louisville on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Junior swingman D.J. Kennedy scored 15 points and classmate Justin Burrell matched his season high with 14 and also collected a game-best and season-high tying eight rebounds for St. John's (13-10, 3-8 BIG EAST).
"It's always great to play in front of those guys. It's just great being around those guys," Red Storm coach Norm Roberts said of the team that featured Chris Mullin, Walter Berry and Mark Jackson and was coached by Hall of Famer Lou Carnesecca. "It was great for those guys to see how hard these young men are working to bring St. John's back to prominence."
Samardo Samuels had 18 points for the Cardinals (15-9, 6-5 BIG EAST), who committed 16 turnovers, went 9-of-18 from the free throw line and missed 10 of their first 11 3-point attempts. Louisville had its lowest point total of the season, 25 below its season average.
"It was our worst game of the season but I think St. John's had a lot to do with that with the way they play defense," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Four or five of our guys had their poorest game of the season but that's due to their great defense."
The Red Storm ended a run of blowing halftime leads. St. John's was in front at halftime for the fourth time in five games and the others all turned into losses to ranked teams - Pittsburgh, Villanova and West Virginia. The latest of those games was the worst with the Red Storm seeing a 43-30 lead with 13:30 to play turn into a 79-60 loss to the fifth-ranked Mountaineers.
"We've played well in the first half and had lulls that hurt us,'' Roberts said. ``Today we put 40 minutes together. I told them after the game, `Remember this. Bottle this. This is what we did. We didn't do anything extraordinary. We didn't make 12 3s. All we did was play very, very hard, rebounded, stayed together and made plays when we had to."
This time, the Red Storm broke from a 40-34 lead with an 11-0 run that was part of a 27-5 spurt that put them ahead 67-39 with 4:10 left. The Cardinals closed within 40-34 when Preston Knowles hit their first 3 of the game with 15:25 to go. Instead of folding like the recent games, the Red Storm took off their run and Louisville looked lost the rest of the game.
St. John's heads to Notre Dame on Sunday for a Valentine's Day matchup with the Irish (7:30 p.m., SNY).