Senior D.J. Kennedy helped pace the Red Storm with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists in a 89-72 win over #9 UConn. Fellow Senior Dwight Hardy led all scorers with 33 points, going 5-8 from beyond the arc.
So just how big is this win for the Johnnies? Let's take a moment to consider the potential impact of this game on their postseason hopes as March Madness looms large in the not-too-distant future.
This win gives them a 6-5 record in a very tough Big East conference. To give you an idea of just how tough it is, Connecticut is also 6-5 in-conference now, and they are currently ranked No. 9 (USA Today/ESPN) and No. 10 (AP) in the country.
The Big East has the most teams ranked in the Top 25 out of all the major conferences, with eight teams ranked in the Associated Press poll and seven in the USA Today/ESPN poll. There are less than two games separating eight of the top 10 teams in the conference. And of the top 11 teams in the Big East, 10 of those are ranked in the RPI Top 40 (Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Villanova, West Virginia, Syracuse, St. John's, Louisville, Cincinnati).
So where does this win leave the Red Storm, when it's all said and done, at this juncture in the regular season?
It evens their record against opponents ranked in the Top 25 to four wins (Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke, Connecticut) and four losses (Notre Dame, Syracuse, Louisville, Georgetown). It also gives them another win—their fifth—over a team ranked in the RPI Top 40 (West Virginia, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke, Connecticut).
Perhaps most importantly, though, this game gives the senior-laden team a real reason to believe that they belong in the upper echelon of college basketball this year. It's been a long, hard road uphill for the program since the last NCAA tournament appearance they made under coach Mike Jarvis.
After NCAA violations, sanctions and a few coaching changes, the new regime under first-year head coach Steve Lavin looks poised to finally turn things around after nearly a decade of adversity and lackluster play. A second victory exceeding 10 points in under two weeks against Top 10 opponents at Madison Square Garden positions the St. John's Red Storm very nicely to make a run at a critical point in the season, especially as they venture away from home for a two-game road trip against Big East foes Cincinnati and Marquette, before returning home to face No. 4 Pittsburgh at MSG.
This is make or break time for a team that appears on the cusp of the NCAA picture at the moment, so the next few games will tell us a lot about how far the program has progressed since 2002 under its new head coach. Against Connecticut, to whom it had lost nine straight regular season games, but has now won its last two, another huge win for St. John's puts them in a position they haven't been in for quite awhile.
Now let's see them run with it, like they did to Connecticut for the final 20 minutes of the game last night.