Rapid Reaction: Pitt 73, St. John's 59
March, 6, 2012
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com
Overview: St. John's, which had won at least one game in the past three Big East tournaments, exits in the first round in 2012. The Red Storm, seeded 12th and playing on their home floor, lose to 13th-seeded Pittsburgh, handily.
No one expected this six-man, inexperienced St. John's team to make a deep run in this tourney -- no one thinking rationally, anyway. But a first-day loss is disappointing.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh -- which hadn't won a Big East tournament game since 2008, and had an extremely disappointing regular season -- moves on.
Turning point: After falling behind 8-2 early, St. John's showed great resolve in rallying to take a 26-20 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first half. But then Pittsburgh turned it up a notch, closing the half on a 13-2 run to take a 33-28 lead into the locker room.
St. John's never recovered. Pitt quickly expanded the lead to double digits in the second half, and was in control of the game from there. Moe Harkless tried his best to carry the Red Storm on his back (see more below), but he got little help from his teammates. The Panthers continued to knock down perimeter shots, and starting cleaning up on the offensive glass as well. The Red Storm had no rally in them this time around.
Key player: Harkless, who is expected to be named the Big East Rookie of the Year at a news conference later today, had a fabulous finish to his freshman season. The 6-foot-8 Queens native finished with 25 points and nine rebounds, making 10 of 16 shots -- one of his best games of the season.
Senior guard Ashton Gibbs led the way for Pittsburgh with 20 points, knocking down four treys.
Miscellaneous: St. John's has been a poor shooting team all season long, particularly from behind the 3-point line, and that reared its ugly ahead again today. The Red Storm shot 22-for-66 from the field (33.3 percent), and 2-for-11 from beyond the arc (18.2 percent). ... D'Angelo Harrison had an outstanding freshman season for St. John's, but he really struggled today -- 4-for-18 from the field, 12 points.
What's next: Pittsburgh will play No. 5 seed Georgetown in the second round, on Wednesday at approximately 2:30 p.m.
As for St. John's? This long, strange season is over. Time to turn its full attention to bringing in some much-needed reinforcements in the spring signing period. Hopefully the next time St. John's takes the floor for a game, Steve Lavin will be back on the sideline, too.