Saint John’s defeated Ed Cooley’s diseased head 91-86 in Providence Wednesday night. In the aftermath of which I am not making up any of the following: it was Saint John’s fourth conference win of the year, two of which were on the road; the win left Saint John’s in sole possession of sixth place in the best basketball conference in America; Saint John’s is in conference as many games behind #10 Creighton and #16 Xavier as they are ahead of Georgetown and Providence; and they have only three fewer conference losses than Villanova, the defending national champion and current #1 team in the country. With 10 games left in the season Saint John’s has two more wins than they had all of last year and had they won a couple of gimmes in November they’d be sitting at 13-9 – which is just where ratface Kevin Willard is, and he’s been at Seton Hall for seven years. Not bad for the least experienced team in the country coached by a guy who’s in desperate need of X and O help from washed up nobodies like Tom Pecora … Wednesday’s game really comprised three mini games: the first half, in which Saint John’s defeated Providence 46-37, courtesy of ten PU turnovers and half a dozen missed free throws; the first seven minutes or so of the second half, where Providence outscored Saint John’s 22-7 on their way to a six point lead, this courtesy of a vintage display of Saint John’s ineptitude; and then the final ten minutes or so – after Mullin used his third and final timeout to calm things down – which was easily the most exciting ten minutes of basketball Saint John’s fans have seen in quite a long time, up to and including scoring the last six point of the game. Yes, the defense was atrocious and yes there were some questionable shots and bonehead plays. So what. They went up and down the court and traded punches and it was fun to watch. It wasn’t Hoosiers and no doubt some of the he-doesn’t-play-basketball-the-
white-right-way crowd might have gotten overexcited and soiled their nappies and had to have a lie down afterwards, but it was about the most enjoyable ten minutes I’ve spent since my honeymoon night. And like that night Missus Fun slept her way through most of it. Her loss …. Usually when I post this graphic it’s to show how bad things got. This one shows how close things were
As does the box score. Saint John’s shot 50 percent from the floor, PU 60 percent; Saint John’s shot 47 percent from three, PU 40 percent; rebounds were more or less even (SJU +3), as were turnovers (PU +2), as were assists (PU +5). Oddly for a game with such prodigious offensive output the game was won and lost at the free throw line, where Saint John’s was a stellar 17 of 19 and PU a putrid 18 of 27 – and Diallo and Holt were a perfect 10 of 10, meaning the rest of them were 8 of 17. Speaking of defense, over the past two games Saint John’s opponents are 32 of 52 from the free throw line … I talked a couple of recaps ago about how enjoyable it is to see Mullin engaged and energetic on the sidelines as he grows into his role as head coach. Last night was no exception. Despite some questionable personnel decisions – like having Alibagodonuts and Missini on the court at the same time and having Oppengruppenfuhrer Freudenburgh on the court at all – Mullin did a good job of keeping his players heads in the game and deserves special credit for calling his final timeout with about 15 minutes to go, when things were in danger of falling apart completely. It was a risky move and it took huge balls and it paid off. As he said in the post-game press conference, what’s the use of having a time out at the end of a game you lose by 20. Mullin incidentally is now 8-1 this year when leading at halftime, which need I say it: that’s all adjustments baby.
PLAYERS: Lovett led all scorers with 26 points and together with Ponds (22 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals) accounted for half of Saint John’s points. Of course they also accounted for half of Saint John’s 17 turnovers but they won so who cares. Lovett made huge plays late in both halves: at the end of the first he nailed a 35 foot three and at the end of the second saved a ball going out of bounds by throwing it over his head and halfway down court where it was retrieved by Ponds. For his part Ponds made six free throws in six attempts in the last minute, accounting for SJU’s last six points. Onions …. Ellison had 15 points and 6 rebounds. Took the ball to the basket impressively several times – he’ll be even more impressive when he learns to finish and make more than half of his free throws. Threw one of his patented lazy half court passes in the first half, which led to a PU layup, after which he was immediately pulled …. Ahmed (15 points) fouled out when he committed a curious intentional foul in the back court with a minute and a half remaining and Saint John’s up one. My lip reading isn’t expert but in the aftermath he seemed to be saying that he heard Mullin yelling at him to foul and so he fouled. Which if that’s what happened that makes him a good soldier and Mullin a bad general. It seems more likely that Mullin was jawing at the officials about some foul that was called or not called – he pretty much is on them from the opening whistle – and some wires got crossed … Darien Williams didn’t do much in the box score but was involved in three plays late that pretty much sealed the deal: in the first he pulled Tariq Owens away from a PU player after a block under the basket and shh-ed him like a librarian, saving what might have escalated into a technical; in the second he clanked a jump hook so badly that it got stuck in between the rim and the backboard and Saint John’s retained possession on the arrow; and in the final seconds he inadvertently blocked the potential game winner on the baseline, with his elbow …. Owens didn’t do much but had a huge block at the rim with 45 seconds left. He was fortunate he didn’t get T’ed up for looming over the fallen PU player and jawing at him. Earlier he was called for goaltending when he stuck his hand up through the rim to block a shot. Before Wilt Chamberlain that play was legal; much like the NBA widening the free throw lane, making that play illegal was one of a number of rule changes made by basketball authorities to stop Wilt Chamberlain from being so good at basketball … Yawke was pulled about 30 seconds into the game for loafing after a loose ball. He barely returned and contributed little … For some reason Freduenbrh played 11 minutes. All I can figure is that Mullin can write that off on his taxes … I’m wont to say that Missini (three points) can’t guard a pillar or a stanchion or a lectern, which is true. This is as opposed to Alibeghwitch (0000100010) who is a less effective defender than a pillar or a stanchion or a lectern.
NOTES: This is the second game in a row where color man Tarik Turner was not aggressively stupid or annoying. Keep up the good work Tarik. I thought
Ashton Kutchner Justin Kutcher screamed a bit too much and was a bit of a Providence homer – he’s from New England and went to Boston College, so maybe, although I only mention it so I could stick a Mila Kunis photo at the top of the page … Usually when Saint John’s plays Providence I can get a paragraph out of the back of Ed Cooley’s head, because what the fuck is that and why doesn’t he mitigate it with some Rogaine or a wig or some Chia hair, but even I can’t go to that well anymore. Fortunately he wore a white vest with a white shirt and matching yellow tie and pocket square so I can describe him as looking like a polar bear with hepatitis. Other than that I got nothing.