WHAT IT MEANS: St. John's drops to 13-9 on the season and squanders an opportunity to notch one more impressive non-conference win, against a team that will probably be sitting alongside it on the bubble come Selection Sunday. And Steve Lavin loses his homecoming game at Pauley Pavilion.
Conversely, UCLA improves to 16-7, and picks up an important résumé-boosting win against a team ranked No. 20 in the RPI coming in.
THE SKINNY: St. John's surged to a 13-4 lead early, but UCLA stormed back to take a 29-26 halftime lead, with 300-pound-plus freshman center Joshua Smith coming off the bench to score 12 points, including four dunks. Dwight Hardy scored 16 points in the first half for the Red Storm, on 7-for-9 shooting. But Justin Brownlee and D.J. Kennedy had only two points apiece.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair, as UCLA would extend to a 10-point lead and St. John's would try to claw back. With under two minutes to go, trailing 62-59, St. John's had two possessions to either move within one or tie the game. Brownlee turned the ball over on the first one, and he could not convert on two shots inside on the second one. Then a Reeves Nelson fallaway 3-pointer with the shot-clock expiring and 34 seconds left in the game essentially sealed St. John's fate.
HIGH/LOW: Hardy was simply brilliant for St. John's on Saturday, pouring in a career-high 32 points on 13-for-24 shooting -- several of his made perimeter jumpers were pretty well guarded, too.
But Hardy got very, very little help -- no other St. John's player scored more than six points. Particularly disappointing was Brownlee, who scored just two points, on 1-for-9 shooting from the field, including those failed attempts late. Hard to say whether the fractured left thumb bothered him or not, but he was definitely more effective playing with the injury on Wednesday against Rutgers, when he scored the game-winning basket.
NUMBERS CRUNCH: Believe it or not, St. John's had 26 -- yes, 26! -- more shot attempts than UCLA on Saturday, and still lost. How? UCLA shot 41 free throws, St. John's only seven. UCLA was in the bonus less than six minutes into the second half. The Bruins being at home may have helped, but that's too wide a disparity to attribute simply to a hometown whistle. UCLA shot only 27-for-41 (65.9 percent) -- if the Bruins had shot a little better, this game would not have been so tight down the stretch.
On the other side, St. John's shot just 25-for-63 from the field -- 39.7 percent. And the Red Storm had only eight assists on those 25 buckets -- nowhere near the polish they had against Duke last weekend, when they had 21 assists on 32 field goals.
WHAT'S NEXT: St. John's if off until Thursday, when it hosts No. 7 UConn at Madison Square Garden. UCLA hosts Oregon on Thursday.