RECAP: Other than picking the Derby winner or seeing Tom Brady snap a fibula if there’s anything sweeter than watching dwekies fail at basketball I don’t know what it is and Saint John’s 82-76 win over Marquette at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night was no exception. Sure Marquette isn’t the evil empire per se but the presence on the sidelines of floor slapping dope Steve Wojowhatever makes it close enough and especially the way the last couple of years at Saint John’s have gone. The look of bewilderment and impotence on Wojo’s face as his team’s post season hopes swirled down the toilet wasn’t priceless, but it was easily worth a sawbuck and the outcome finds me in such a good mood this morning that I’m barely able to work up the bile necessary to write one of these things and probably if I hadn’t drunk enough gin last night to kill a less hardy man probably wouldn’t bother, but why waste a good hangover … So where was I oh yeah Saint John’s defeated Marquette 82-76 at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. It was their fifth conference win of the season – their fifth – and moved them into sixth place – sixth – in the Big East, ahead of Georgetown, Providence, and Seton Hall and only a half game behind Marquette. I noted after it might have been the Villanova game that Saint John’s was starting to put it together but that it was hard to tell because they had been playing a couple of weeks worth of ranked teams. At the risk of injuring myself patting myself on the back too vigorously I think it’s fair to say that that assessment was correct: they beat Providence in Providence and played Xavier tough and last night spanked Marquette on their home court the way a good team should. Dopey Steve Lavin always talked about getting his team to play its best ball in February, which in his case was just an excuse for his team’s lousy play the other 11 months of the year. This year I think it might be happening, a case of the freshmen maturing and the team coming together and Mullin getting his coaching legs under him. That having been said no doubt Nova beats them by 40 on Saturday. In event it’s welcome and if I didn’t feel like dying I might even be in what passes for me as a good mood …
If you didn’t know the outcome you’d think that Saint John’s was the thin blue line above, because that’s how lots of their games go: they keep it close for a while, go down big, make a feeble aborted comeback and come up short. Last night the opposite happened. Saint John’s went into the locker room up eight by virtue of a 10-2 run late in the first half and except for an 8-0 Marquette run early in the second the outcome was never really in doubt. Offensively Saint John’s did what they do more or less: they shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three, albeit 17 assists on 32 made baskets is a bit more than usual. What made the difference last night was rebounding and defense. It wasn’t just the obvious stuff, like Ponds and Lovett making Marquette’s guards look foolish by stripping them of the ball half a dozen times at midcourt. It was the effort and the little things they usually don’t do: fighting through screens and boxing out and, you know, stuff that good basketball teams do. Speaking of defense, since Saint John’s allowed DePaul to shoot 15 of 16 from the free throw line a couple of weeks ago their opponents are 56 of 93, which is about 60 percent. Credit to whoever’s been working with the kids on that in practice, probably Saint Jean … Mullin coached I thought a marvelous game. He waited a minute or two longer than I would have to call a timeout in the second half – Marquette had gotten to within five when he finally called one but maybe he was waiting to see if they could fix things on their own. Other than that I had no complaints and especially not about the two white lummoxes not seeing the floor: neither Alibegowitch or Freudenburgh played, which is fine by me. Amar is hopeless and the German is still a couple of steps slow. People talk a little bit of shit about the fact that Mullin’s less than articulate in the huddle, which yeah he is, but for the most part if the difference between winning a game and losing it is a couple of minutes worth of sideline exhortation then you’re not doing your job the rest of the week. I mention this because FS2 – horrible picture by the way, it reminded me of watching porn on my Commodore 64 – cut to Wojo during a time out yesterday when he said this, verbatim:
We won that last four minutes by eight points. You know why? Because we’re competing. We’re competing. No. We were not playing scared. We’re competing. Compete for this last eight minutes.
So to recap: they’re competitive because they’re competing. And this guy went to Dook, the finest Ivy League school in the entire ACC. Remember that next time Mullin mumbles something incoherent … Next up Villanova away. Gird your loins.
PLAYERS: JUCO bust Bashir Ahmed who needs to be benched until he learns to play basketball the
white right way had easily the best game of his brief college career: 23 points and six rebounds, including a huge one in traffic with about two minutes left. He was aggressive but for the most part under control. Nice to see because he plays really hard … Also nice to see Kassoum Yakwe, who for the first time this year looked like the player he was going to be this year last year at about this time. (Read it again, it makes perfect sense.) He fumbled one pass but the rest of them he caught and finished. Add to that six rebounds and yeoman defense on Marquette’s big front line and you have a pretty good day at the office. Hopefully this was the start of his resurgence and not an anomaly … Ponds and Lovett had between them 35 points, 10 assists, and seven steals – most of the latter around midcourt, where as I mentioned they made Marquette’s guards look silly. Ponds had seven rebounds as well …. Tariq Owens: 11 rebounds in 20 minutes … Malik Ellison took his rightful place in the offense: behind nearly everyone else. When he doesn’t try to do too much he looks like he’s doing more than he is, which is almost enough … Mussini [sic] hit a couple of threes. On the first he head faked the MU player aside, set his feet and swished it. Very pretty, I watched it a bunch of times. His other one came late in the second half when MU got within seven. If he does that every game I’ll have to find another dead horse to beat … Williams played 10 uneventful minutes and no one else played any
NOTES: When I switched the game on last night around nine Missus Fun said something about me not having my notebook that I use to write my “little blog,” which sometimes she has to get her digs in and I let her because believe it or not I can sometimes be something of a long day. So we got to talking about my little blog and she asked why I don’t reply to the comments that people leave – which are generally favorable – and I said for the same reason you don’t thank construction workers when they whistle at you on the street, it’s unseemly, and that anyway what little conversation these gambols provoke take place in fan forums and have less to do with my incredible basketball insight and more to do with what picture I stick at the top of the page. This week for example I wrote three of these and the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was why last time I used a photo of Lisa Whelchel from the Facts of Life instead of Phoebe Cates, who the guy who banged Mindy Cohn banged in Fast Times. The answer’s simple: I already used Phoebe Cates (many times, believe me) and anyway sometimes I feel like a blonde. To her credit Missus Fun stayed awake for most of that conversation and almost the entire game, so that I didn’t have to implement my new draconian no snoring during basketball regimen, but since I know now that she’s a fan, she’s forewarned.