The opponent changes, but the result doesn’t.
Different positives emerge depending on the game, but the established weaknesses — shot selection, defensive discipline and shot-making — continue to get exposed. The inability to absorb a body blow and respond in a timely manner remains out of St. John’s grasp.
And so continued yet another dismal start to the league season on Tuesday night, the Johnnies now looking like a long shot to reach the postseason for the first time in the Mike Anderson era. They outplayed Marquette for most of the first half, but after the Golden Eagles adjusted at intermission, St. John’s didn’t have the needed response in a dismal 96-85 setback at Carnesecca Arena in front of a small crowd.
St. John’s is now 0-5 in Quad 1 and 2 games, and not even in the top 100 of the NET rankings.
Defense is supposed to be this program’s calling card under Anderson, but it hasn’t stopped anyone since conference play began. After getting torched by Seton Hall on New Year’s Eve, Marquette erupted for 96 points on 53.2 percent shooting. In the second half, it hit 7 of 12 3-point attempts and rung up 55 points.
As has been the case all season, Joel Soriano was St. John’s (11-5, 1-4) best player, producing a double-double of 22 points and 13 rebounds. Dylan Addae-Wusu added 21 points and five assists, but did have three turnovers. Olivier-Maxence Prosper led Marquette with 29 points and Kam Jones had 16.
The night began ominously, with the school announcing Andre Curbelo was unavailable for not adhering to team standards and the other point guard, Posh Alexander, oddly not starting. Curbelo wasn’t on the bench, but he was spotted in the area wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
St. John’s did play its best first half in weeks, and arguably its best of the season. It shot a robust 66 percent from the field, hit 19 of its first 28 shots, forced eight turnovers and got 19 of its 48 points from the bench.
Ten came from Alexander, who didn’t start but hit as many 3-pointers in the first half — two — as he had hit in his last seven games. Soriano was a force, producing 16 points, five rebounds and a plus-10 rating. It was an opening 20 minutes full of positive vibes, St. John’s leading most of the first half, finally putting together a strong stretch of basketball.
Marquette emerged out of the break a different team, ripping off a 16-2 run to take the lead. The Golden Eagles hit six of their first eight shots of the second half, including three 3-pointers, and suddenly a nine-point St. John’s lead was a seven-point deficit. Marquette scored 32 of the first 46 points of the second half and was dominant across the board. It led by 11 after a Prosper 3-pointer with 9:25 left.
St. John’s got as close as four with 3:14 to go, but it failed to get back following a Jones dunk, and Prosper converted a three-point play to push the lead back to seven.
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