That made for a bad combination for the Red Storm as Tray Woodall scored a season-high 25 points, including two 3-pointers in the second half, and Pittsburgh snapped a two-game losing streak with a 63-47 victory.
“In the second half we were in the desert offensively and that’s a credit to Pittsburgh in terms of their defense,” said St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin. “But also, there were things that we could’ve done more effectively in terms of being more patient and having better shot selection.”
Woodall, who came in averaging 10.9 points per game, finished 8-of-14 from the field, and D’Angelo Harrison of the Red Storm, the Big East’s No. 3 scorer with an 18.3-point average, had a tough shooting day and finished with six points on 1-of-12 field goals.
It didn’t help that St. John’s, which came into the game averaging 11.4 turnovers per game, had enough second-half miscues to lead to 13 Panther points.
Lamar Patterson had 11 points for the Panthers (21-7, 9-6 Big East), who have won five of their past seven road games.
JaKarr Sampson had 14 points and six boards and Phil Greene IV added 11 for the Red Storm (16-11, 8-7 Big East), which has three regular season games and the Big East Championship Tournament to add to its potential NCAA Tournament resume.
The teams came in tied for seventh in the 15-team league. The top eight finishers get a bye to the second round, a day of rest in a tournament that can stretch to five days for a team that doesn’t get that opening bye.
The week started out better for the Red Storm, defeating USF, 69-54, before a sell-out crowd of over 5,000 at Carnesecca Arena.
Lavin had been coaching a very young St. John’s team a certain way for most of the season, treating his young players like young players, but that changed against USF.
“I wasn’t pleased with stretches where we lost our focus and concentration,” Lavin said of a second-half timeout he called when he could be heard over the home crowd, letting his team know he didn’t like what he was seeing. “We lost the concentration we need to put good teams away. With our schedule stepping up we can’t have those lapses or teams will go on runs and that will make it less likely that we will do something special in March.”
Sampson scored 20 points with seven rebounds and Harrison added 18 with five assists and four rebounds as St. John’s handed the Bulls their ninth-straight loss and 13th in their last 14 games.
It was the first game back for Lavin, who missed two games following the death of his father, Cap, a Hall of Famer from a different USF, the University of San Francisco.
The sellout crowd of 5,602 was enticed by a bobblehead doll of Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca and a halftime recognition of former St. John’s players and coaches. The brief ceremony concluded with remarks from Carnesecca that included a reference to “an octopus wearing roller skates” as a description of a young team.
March begins on the road for the Red Storm with a visit to Providence on Saturday, March 2 (8 p.m., SNY).