St. John’s won its first eight games of the season and was sitting in good position with an 11-1 record in mid-December.
But the Red Storm have since dropped six of eight contests and are badly in need of a victory when they face Creighton in Wednesday’s Big East matchup in Omaha, Neb.
St. John’s (13-7, 3-6) lost five straight games after the strong start and briefly halted its slide with wins against Butler and then-No. 6 UConn. But the squad took a major step backward last Friday in a 57-49 home loss against Villanova.
The Red Storm shot 32.1 percent from the field, committed 17 turnovers and succumbed when Villanova closed with a 15-3 game-ending run over the final 5:25.
“Going down the stretch, you have to make plays and make shots,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said afterward. “We had opportunities, but we couldn’t score and you have to score to get into your defense.”
Joel Soriano recorded his nation-leading 17th double-double of the season with 14 points and 16 rebounds. He leads the Red Storm in scoring (16.4) and rebounding (12.3).
Creighton (11-8, 5-3) has won its past two games, beating then-No. 19 Providence 73-67 at home on Jan. 14 and then routing host Butler 73-52 on Jan. 17.
Ryan Nembhard had 12 points and a career-best 11 rebounds and Baylor Scheierman also had 12 points against the Bulldogs. Ryan Kalkbrenner had 11 points and nine rebounds and Trey Alexander also had 11 points.
The Bluejays’ balanced attack saw seven players score at least eight points at Butler.
“That’s huge for us,” Nembhard said on the school’s postgame radio show. “We’ve got to find other ways to win. I think that’s what we’ve struggled with on the road, not making shots. Not being able to pull out those close games on the road — close games — but not being able to pull them out because of our defense or certain things like that.”
The Bluejays are 13-5 against St. John’s since joining the Big East. Creighton has won eight of nine home meetings during that stretch.
The Bluejays are also 8-1 this season on their home floor. Anderson is very aware his club faces a tough task.
“We know how good Creighton is, especially at home,” Anderson said. “They’re a team that can spread you out and shoot the ball. Obviously, we are going to their home, so we have our work cut out for us. I expect us to get prepared for them.”
–Field Level Media