NEW YORK, NY – Glenn Braica decided not to dive into his Dennis Green impression, but there was still lingering disappointment from the St. Francis Brooklyn contingent following Sunday’s 63-56 loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.
The Terriers were looking to pull the upset against a Red Storm squad down on their luck and at the beginning of a rebuilding process this season. In the 78-game history of this local rivalry, St. Francis Brooklyn has won just 12 times. Even worse, in recent years the rivalry has been decidedly one-sided. St. John’s has now won 33 of the last 34 meetings against the Terriers, including seven in a row.
Things were looking good for Braica’s squad early in the first half as the Terriers opened up a nine point lead with 6:43 remaining in the first half. Then out of nowhere, the Terriers’ ship hit an iceberg.
St. John’s appeared disjointed early on, as they have all season with 11 new players. However, the narrative took a turn off a Yankuba Sima put-back dunk with just under six minutes remaining.
That dunk started a run of 19 points in a row for St. John’s before Yunus Hopkinson finally stopped the bleeding with a jumper as time expired on the first half. Over that 5:58, the Terriers went from leading 23-14 to trailing 33-25 going into the break.
“We got out early in the first half and made some shots and got ahead,” Braica said. “I think it was a little bit of a trap because I thought we took some bad shots during the stretch when they went on that run at the end of the first half. We had a couple of live ball turnovers which lead to run outs. We took some questionable shots.”
St. John’s maintained a steady lead for most of the second half, but the Terriers were able to close within four points twice in the frame before a Hopkinson layup cut the lead to two with just over a minute remaining.
However, a baseline jumper from Durand Johnson as the shot clock expired on St John’s next possession stifled the Terriers’ hopes of an upset. A pair of free throws from Johnson pushed the lead back to five with 18 seconds remaining. Alas, St. Francis Brooklyn had let the Red Storm off the hook.
“We just were told ‘don’t give up,’” St. Francis’ Chris Hooper said of the second half surge. “They had a run, we got down, we just didn’t give up. We just pressured them, pressured them, to see what happened.”
Hopkinson and Antonio Jenifer paced the Terriers with 10 points apiece. Tyreek Jewell sparked the first half offense to finish with nine points, while Keon Williams showed life from behind the arc, knocking down 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
Although this is clearly a rebuilding year for St. John’s, but wins against the Red Storm don’t come often for the Terriers. No matter the state of the programs, a win over St. John’s would have been a positive for the Terriers’ resume, but the true goal remains in improving in preparation for NEC play.
“It was a good experience for our team,” Braica said. “We just need to move forward off this and get better. It’s not going to determine our season.”
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.