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St. John’s falls to Louisville

January 10, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – St. John’s thought that this would be the season that it would get back to contending with the Big East’s elite teams, and a strong start provided hope. But the Red Storm’s dreams seem on the brink of splintering, and maybe so is the team.

The Johnnies lost to Louisville, 75-68, Saturday, falling to 0-3 in conference play while losing for the fourth time in the last five games. And the losing is clearly taking its toll.

“I don’t think everyone’s head is in the right place right now,” St. John’s junior center Sean Evans said. “It might not be just playing in the games. It starts in the practices and everywhere. I don’t think we’re all together yet.

“Some of us come in with the mentality we’re going to win the game. Some are like ‘whatever happens, happens.'”

Speaking more generally, junior guard Paris Horne said, “To win games like this, it’s going to take a collective effort. I believe in my heart we have that in us.”

That was evident in the first half Saturday as the Johnnies (10-5, 0-3), sparked by the return of starting point guard Malik Boothe from a groin injury, held the Cardinals (12-4, 3-0) to 33% shooting and committed only five turnovers to take a 32-28 lead.

It all came crashing down in a second half that was all Louisville. The Cardinals outhustled St. John’s to 10 offensive rebounds that resulted in 14 points. Rick Pitino’s press forced the Red Storm into seven turnovers that led to seven more points. And Rice product Edgar Sosa, held scoreless in the first half, hit three straight 3-point shots in a five-minute stretch in which the Johnnies didn’t make a basket. The third made it 61-48 with 5:10 to play.

“In order to win here in Louisville, we had to take the game,” St. John’s coach Norm Roberts said. “In the first half we took command and then in the second half we started in a lull.”

“We haven’t played a full game to our potential,” Evans said. “We might play a half or in spurts but we haven’t put a whole game together yet. The losing bothers me. It bothers a lot of us.”

That includes senior Anthony Mason Jr., who scored five points in his first game since Nov. 18, 2008, after foot surgery and a hamstring injury.

“This could have been a good day, but it isn’t,” Mason said . “I’d rather have had five points in a win.”

D.J. Kennedy led the Johnnies with 20 points and eight rebounds, then had to go to the hospital for four stitches afterward to close a gash above his eye, though Roberts said he won’t miss any time. Kennedy underwent a CAT scan, which was negative.

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