Usually when I tape a Saint John’s game I make sure to avoid venues where I’m liable to see the final score. I didn’t think Twitter was one of those, so imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon at around 2:30 when LIU Brooklyn started trending. Ah ha, I thought, a clue that things have gone south. And gone south they had, as Saint John’s lost a squeaker 74-73 to the LIU Blackbirds Sunday afternoon at Barclay Arena. The good news is there was no one around to see it …. Saint John’s came out flat. I think probably it was a combination of things: the early start and that they didn’t take LIU very seriously – much like they didn’t take Delaware State seriously a couple of weeks ago – and that they had been playing too well to not have a bit of a letdown and the Sima thing and that Marcus Lovett was out again didn’t help either. Whatever it was LIU went out to a 10 point lead but Saint John’s got back in it mostly at the free throw line and at halftime it was tied. Due to some brilliant halftime adjustments by Coach Mullin SJU pulled ahead by seven with about eight minutes left when suddenly it all fell apart. Mullin said in the postgame press conference that “when we had a seven point lead we got sloppy and didn’t take care of the ball,” which is an understatement. Up 58-51 the following SJ possessions ensued: Darien Williams travelled, Mussini missed a three, Williams missed a chippie, Mussini missed a three, Freudenburg fumbled the ball out of bounds under the basket, Ahmed travelled, Ponds missed a layup, Ahmed missed two free throws, and Mussini missed a three – at which point the seven point lead was a two point deficit. Things went back and forth a bit after that and Saint John’s actually led by four with 1:13 left but being forewarned I knew it was not to be and so was not surprised when Ponds front rimmed a jumper at the buzzer. A tough beat but a few more foot pounds from Ponds and everyone would be dancing a tarantella about how these brave young kids gutted out a gritty victory and maybe they’re not so bad after all and thank god we have Chris Mullin to lead us to the promised land towards which we have finally turned the corner… Saint John’s shot 40 percent from the floor and from three and rebounds were plus four 39-35. The ball did not move the way it has of late though – they had only 11 assists on 24 made baskets – and they did not help themselves with 18 turnovers, which is way too many turnovers, and they also did not help themselves by missing eight free throws in a one point game. And once again the defense was atrocious: the guards can’t keep anyone in front of them and except for when they’re blocking shots (they had 8) the bigs don’t even seem to bother. It doesn’t help that they’re all twigs – someone called James “Professor” Frink who weighed more than the three of them combined pushed the whole lot of them around for 37 minutes on his way to a 20 point 12 rebound double double … It also did not help that the referees called a foul a minute for 40 minutes, 24 in the first half. Even though Saint John’s ended up taking more free throws the constant stoppages of play inures to the benefit of the team that doesn’t want to go fast, and Mullin wants to go fast. On the other hand those fans who like hearing the sound “tweet” and watching free throws being shot – for my money the most exciting play in all of sports – probably had a great time. I just got annoyed …. As usual after one of these unfortunate losses in the various SJU fan forums last night and this morning the sky is falling; no doubt Pete Gillen’s ear are ringing in the old folks home where he’s spending his golden years. The players stink and Mullin’s a moron: the usual suspects taking to the divan with the vapors. Zzzz. Newsflash: yesterday Malik Ellison started and Federico “Oompa Loompa” Mussini was the first man off the bench and SJU was shorted handed because the great Amar Alibegowitch was unavailable. At their best those players are not very good and the ones like Ponds who are good are terribly young and they just plumb got beat and they’re going to plumb get beat a bunch more times and clutching your pearls and cursing Chris Mullin when they do is like watching Gone With the Wind for the 19th time and thinking that this time the Confederates are going to win the war and then blaming David O. Selznick when they don’t. That’s the definition of insanity you know: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I mean, I’m crazy, but not that crazy.
PLAYERS: Ponds had 18 points and six rebounds. It’s a measure of how well he played the last couple of games that this one seemed a bit of a disappointment … Bashir Ahmed – who one enormous basketball mind claimed should be “benched until he learns that basketball is a team sport” and another deemed “a bust” – had 14 and 6 and is now averaging 12 and six and shooting 40 percent from three for the year. Twelve and six is about what Jakarr Sampson averaged his one year in college and as I recall people wanted him benched as well. As for me I want more players who you can pencil in for 12 and 6, not less … When Federico Mussini dies they should carve on his tombstone a little Italian guy in baggy shorts chasing two steps behind a quicker taller black guy, because that’s what he spends most of his time doing on the basketball court: chasing his man around in a futile attempt to catch up. If it were not for Malik Ellison he might be the worst defensive player I’ve ever seen. Three for 10 from the floor, one assist (that’s one fewer than greedy selfish Bashir Ahmed for those of you scoring at home) and two turnovers in 28 minutes. Color man Jim Spanarkle described him as “almost like a point guard,” which is technically correct if you put the emphasis on the almost … Ellison had eight points on a couple of nice drives to the basket and five assists but gets the coveted GOAT OF THE GAME award for two boneheaded plays coming down the stretch: on the first one he crossed midcourt line and leapt gracefully into the air to laser a pass to the peanut vendor in Row 11 and later on down one with ten seconds left he spent six seconds dribbling pointlessly at the top of the key and then drove to the baseline where he cleverly picked up his dribble before throwing a bounce pass no less to Kassoum Yawke no less in traffic no less in the lane no less. I hate to keep repeating myself but he might be the dumbest player I’ve ever seen. And oh yeah he missed all his free throws and is now shooting 50 percent for the year. From never nervous Purvis to always bleak Malik: the apple has indeed fallen far from the tree … Tariq Owens had five rebounds and four blocks in 18 minutes but only two points … Not to be out done Yawke had two points and three rebounds and fumbled the ball out of bounds wide open on a set play with under a minute to go. I don’t know who’s calling plays for the big men with games on the line (I recall they lost one last year when they ran a set play for Sima with a couple of seconds left) but that guy should be flogged and I’m pretty sure it’s Saint Jean. Whereas anyone who’s watched Hoosiers knows you don’t use Jimmy Chitwood as a decoy, you let him take the last shot. Too be fair to Yawke we should remember that this should be his first year in college and he’s still very young. But he is not the player he was last year when he was an all BE freshmen and that seems very far away and that’s troubling and hopefully he gets his head out of his ass pretty soon, because it would be helpful if he stepped up … Richard Fredenburgh made his second three of the year – the German deadeye is now 2 for 15 on the year – but had six rebounds. To be fair he does seem to have a nose for the ball. Hopefully he starts working on his other senses soon …. As you might have heard Yankuba Sima has departed Saint John’s for greener pastures. You’d think that in his absence everyone’s favorite towel waver Amar Alibeowitsh would have been itching to step up and support his teammates in this difficult time. Instead because he’s a dumbass he injured himself celebrating Saint John’s important win over Fordham a couple of days ago; my sources tell me he may never walk again, god willing. In his place Darien Williams – whose claim to fame heretofore has been doing interpretive dance steps on the side lines after made threes – was forced into action; he’s played 13 minutes total the previous 10 games and had twice as many personal fouls as points. So naturally Sunday afternoon he had 15 points, seven rebounds and a block and would have earned the game ball if they gave out the game ball on shitty teams that lose to LIU. But they don’t so he gets nothing …. Now that we’re down to a seven man rotation and our best big man is evidently a guy with no shoulders who hasn’t played organized basketball in two years, any of you still think throwing Chris Jones over the side was a good idea? The sad thing is that probably you do.
NOTES: I was going to just say notes, schmotes, I have no notes and be done with it but then I remembered that LIU used to be coached by the legendary Clair Bee, who Lou Carnesecca will tell you practically invented basketball. Bee was 413-88 lifetime as a college coach: 360–80 in 20 years at LIU, where he won two national championships – LIU was undefeated in 1936 and 1939 and at one point won 43 games in a row – and before that 53-8 at Rider. Eleven of his 88 career losses came in 1933, his second year at LIU, when he went 6-11 – no word whether disgruntled LIU fans were hoping that he could be replaced by Pete Gillen, who was then a sprightly 35 year old. Bee resigned in shame in 1951 after several of his players were implicated in the well-documented CCNY point shaving scandal and went on to coach in the NBA where he lost more games in two years than he had in three decades in college: as coach of the Washington Bullets he was a moribund 34-116. Perhaps he could have done better had he had the smarts to hire an experienced X and O coach to help him on the sidelines but at this late date that’s probably something of a moot point.