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Rapid Reax: Providence 79, St. John's 74

3/13/2014

NEW YORK -- Some quick thoughts on St. John's 79-74 loss to Providence on Thursday at Madison Square Garden:

What it means: St. John's will almost certainly miss the Big Dance for the third year in a row.

In a virtual NCAA tournament play-in game against fellow bubble dweller Providence, the Red Storm fell short in the Big East tournament quarterfinals -- on their home floor no less.

The Friars (21-11, 10-8) may need one more win to sleep well Saturday night. But St. John's (20-12, 10-8) can rest easy. Its chances come Selection Sunday are slim to none.

The turning point: St. John's led by as many as seven in the first half (29-22) on a D'Angelo Harrison free throw with 5:34 remaining. But Providence closed the half on a 14-4 run, leading 36-33 at intermission. Rysheed Jordan scored 14 points, but the Red Storm shot just 7-for-14 from the foul line.

Providence broke open the game early in the second half, thanks to sophomore guard Josh Fortune. His 3-pointer with 15:30 remaining pushed the Friars' lead to double digits for the first time (45-35), and another Fortune trey made it 50-37 a minute later.

St. John's eventually trailed by as many as 17 (63-46) with 6:24 remaining before mounting a furious comeback fueled by its full-court press. The Red Storm climbed all the way back to within one (69-68) on two Harrison free throws with 1:15 left. And JaKarr Sampson attempted a shot in the lane with 39 seconds left that would have given St. John's the lead, but Carson Desrosiers blocked it, a jump ball was called, and the possession arrow was in the Friars' favor.

Harrison had a 3-point attempt to tie the game with 26 seconds left, but it was blocked by Fortune. Providence closed out the game from there at the foul line.

Star watch: Harrison had 21 points and 10 rebounds for St. John's, but shot just 6-for-17 from the field. Jordan had 17, but only three in the second half. Sampson scored 15 points.

Fortune, who was Providence's fifth-leading scorer (8.0 PPG), scored a game-high 24, shooting 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. Bryce Cotton (21.7 ppg), the second-leading scorer in the conference, had just 12 points, shooting 1-for-10 from the field -- and the Friars still won.

Number crunch: For the game, St. John's shot just 13-for-26 from the foul line. It's hard to beat a good team shooting like that from the charity stripe.

What's next: Providence will play No. 8 seed Seton Hall, which upset top seed Villanova, on Friday at 7 p.m., with a berth in the Big East championship game on the line.

St. John's? Better light some candles and pray.