I don't know what it is about the St. John's basketball program and it's flair for the dramatics, but Steve Lavin and Co. seem to be really good at it. Despite losing, 66-59, Saturday afternoon at the UCLA Bruins, the Red Storm, again, found themselves in a last-minute battle on nation television. It was another indication that college basketball in NYC has returned.
Senior guard Dwight Hardy netted a collegiate-best 32 points, 16 in both halves, and helped St. John's shrink a 10-point disadvantage to only three with 3:23 remaining. But the Johnnies (13-9, 5-5 Big East) just couldn't complete the comeback against UCLA (16-7, 7-3 PAC 10).
Of course the story of the day, at least for St. John's fans, was Hardy who continues to get better and better as the season progresses. Currently, at least to me, I'd place Hardy right behind UConn's junior guard Kemba Walker as the league's best. Yes, I know there's the two Coreys (Stokes and Fisher) at Villanova and there's a guy at Providence (Marshon Brooks) who scored 43 points Saturday and is now second in the nation in scoring. But there's something about Hardy that is very Acie Law-like. Hardy is such a scrapper and demands a lot from his teammates. Heck, imagine if head coach Steve Lavin had Hardy for another season? How good could the 6-foot-2 player from the Bronx, NY be?
The only other reaction I have from today's game is: Despite having nine seniors, St. John's always seems to have a point where it's players play like a bunch of freshmen. This has to be frustrating for Johnnies fans.
Trailing 60-57, the Red Storm did have chances to tie the game. However, senior forward Justin Brownlee got the case of the yips. First, Brownlee tried to isolate UCLA freshman center Joshua Smith but failed badly -- Brownlee had the ball knocked out of his hands, onto his foot and out of bounds for a turnover. Then in "transition" -- I used this term loosely because it was Brownlee against five other Bruin players -- the senior tried to force two lay ups through three UCLA players.
All-in-all, it was a good showing by the Johnnies, who in less than two days had to travel across the country and play at 10 a.m. PST. What college student is getting up at 10 a.m?
The St. John's basketball schedule features the Red Storm hosting the Connecticut Huskies (No. 6 in the AP poll and No. 7 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) on Thursday (7 p.m.). Next Sunday, the Johnnies are at the Cincinnati Bearcats (noon).