After starting off with a 5-0 run against Gonzaga, St. John's began to fall apart at the handles. Justin Brownlee was able to score the team's first points with a three-pointer and a beautiful layup while being fouled. Following the layup, Brownlee missed the free throw, unable to capitalize on the three-point play opportunity.
Once the game was tied at 14, there was no looking back for the Bulldogs of Gonzaga. The "Zags" went on a 10-0 run as they took advantage of the difference in size. Although the Johnnies have big forwards like Sean Evans, Justin Brownlee and Justin Burrell, Gonzaga was able to manhandle the Red Storm.
In the first half, Gonzaga had 19 rebounds, while the Red Storm had a mere seven. As the end of the first half neared, St. John's took it upon themselves to try and close the gap between them and Gonzaga.
At one point, the Bulldogs had a 14-point lead with less than two minutes to go in the half. As the clock wound down to zero, Justin Brownlee was able to hit a buzzer-beating two-pointer that would give St. John's some momentum as they entered halftime.
The Johnnies' first half problems could not be blamed only on the difference in size; the Red Storm shot themselves in the foot.
On several occasions, they would take questionable shots which led 46.2 field goal percentage. Because they took these contested shots, they were not able to produce easier shots in the paint for their forwards, which was something Gonzaga did really well.
Getting in early foul trouble just made matters worse. With the ACL injury to forward DJ Kennedy, Justin Burrell was expected to step up and fill in his shoes, but with three fouls at halftime, it was hard for him to get playing time.
In the second half, it was more of the same. There were times when St. John's would show signs of the team that New Yorkers and the rest of the nation saw back in February; the fact of the matter is St. John's just didn't matchup well.
There were several Gonzaga players who stood out against St. John's, but it was the collective effort that helped them be victorious at the Pepsi Center. The distribution of the ball by the Bulldogs was evident, as three players scored 15 points or more.
This sharing of the basketball allowed Gonzaga to spread the Johnnies' defense around the court and foil Steve Lavin's defensive scheme of pressuring the offense, which produced easy jump shots or easy lanes to the basket.
The lack of contribution from the St. John's bench was yet another factor in their loss. Of all of their bench players, Malik Stith was the only one who was able to do any damage as the starters carried the majority of the scoring load for the entire game.
In the end, St. John's was not playing up to the standards most have come to know this year. They were sloppy and, when it mattered most, nobody could step up.
St. John's had a great season as their talented 10 seniors put the program back in the spotlight. Next year, St. John's will be receiving a top recruiting class as Steve Lavin and the Red Storm staff look to put together another strong season and be contenders in the Big East and NCAA.
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