NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — In the midst of the worst losing streak in school history, St. John’s showed fight in its 10th straight loss.
Trailing by 20 early in the second half, the Red Storm rallied to within three in the final minute before falling 78-73 to Marquette on Sunday.
“I thought it was a great effort,” first-year coach Chris Mullin said. “The first half was pretty sluggish both ways. (We) came out like zombies to start the second half and we didn’t give up. … Was proud of the way they played in the second half. More importantly, they didn’t give up, made some good things happen.”
Freshmen Durand Johnson and Federico Mussini helped St. John’s get back in the game after they fell behind 46-26 with 16 minutes left.
“It is hard,” Johnson said of the losing streak. “Everyone wants to win.”
He finished with 20 points while Mussini added 19, all in the second half. This is the worst start in the Big East since for St. John’s since losing the first 10 conference games in 2003-04.
St. John’s (7-13, 0-7 Big East) only trailed 22-21 early on before Marquette used a 24-5 run that spanned the half to build its big lead. The Red Storm then started pressing and forcing turnovers to get back in the game.
Mussini’s 3-pointer with 5:59 left made it 61-59 and had the spirited crowd into the game. After Marquette got the lead back up to seven with 1:44 left, Johnson hit consecutive 3-pointers to get the Red Storm within 76-73 with 41.5 seconds left. Henry Ellenson missed a contested drive in the lane with 13 seconds left giving the Red Storm one last chance. But Mussini’s contested 3-pointer was short with a second left and Ellenson hit two free throws to seal the victory.
“I was just trying to hit the 3-point shot, down by 3,” Mussini said of his last-second chance. “I thought it was going to go in. From what I was seeing it was straight on.”
Freshman Kassoum Yakwe added seven points, eight rebounds and seven blocks for the Red Storm, who have a bright future.
“Chris is doing a great job with his team. It’s not easy when you take over a program,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. This conference is a bear. … They’re getting better all the time. Chris will have St. John’s rolling in no time.”
Duane Wilson scored 17 points and Ellenson had 16 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles (13-7, 3-5).
The game was originally supposed to be played Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, but was moved to Sunday after a winter storm dropped nearly 27 inches of snow in New York.
Marquette: Ellenson has already earned Big East freshman of the week honors three times this season. … Marquette’s last trip to New York was successful as the Golden Eagles won the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in November.
St. John’s: Despite missing the last three games with an injury, Yankuba Sims is fifth in the country averaging 3.1 blocks a game. … With nine new scholarship players the Red Storm have started two freshmen in all 20 games this season.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles host Stetson on Wednesday.
St. John’s: The Red Storm are at Seton Hall on Wednesday.
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