For the third time in four seasons, Creighton’s season came to a close at the hand of St. John’s. The Jays held the lead for most of the game but could not keep St. John’s at bay as the Red Storm got over the hump and took the victory 57-54.
“It should us that we were able to withstand blues,” junior guard Danaejah Grant said. “There were a lot of times we could have quit throughout the game and I think to rally together and to overcome that was great for us.”
With the win, St. John’s (21-9, 11-7) advanced to the Big East semifinals for the second straight year, while Creighton’s (17-13, 10-8) strong finish to the season was not enough to keep it alive.
“It was a struggle to score today and the biggest thing was we didn’t rebound in the second half,” head coach Jim Flanery said. “Those extra 3-4 rebounds they got were probably the difference.”
St. John’s had trouble scoring in the opening minutes while Creighton climbed out to a 7-0 lead. The Red Storm weren’t on the board until a free throw with 14:37 to go in the half and didn’t have a basket in the run of play until the 13:18 mark. By then, Creighton had a 9-3 advantage that they would use to stay off the Red Storm for the rest of the half.
The two teams made mini-runs in the closing minutes of the half. Creighton went up by as many as ten and St. John’s cut the lead to four at one point. The back and forth action went all the way into the break as Creighton held a five-point lead, 28-23.
“Coming into the half I felt we did a good job of sustaining ourselves after the first couple minutes of the game,” St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella said. “We persevered and made plays and executed the game plan.”
The Jays continued to hold a small lead throughout the opening minutes of the second half while the Red Storm kept pace. It wasn’t until the 9:33 mark that St. John’s got over the hump and took their first lead of the game 42-41.
St. John’s took their turn to hold a small lead going into the final minutes of the game. Creighton got back to within three points with 11.4 seconds left and had a chance to tie it up but Sydney Lamberty missed a corner three and the Jays ran out of time as they fell 57-54.
The Red Storm’s win put them into a matchup with top-seeded Seton Hall, a team that they beat earlier in the year. They hope that the resiliency and adjustments they made in the game against Creighton will help them in the semifinals as well.
“We adjusted by attacking,” Grant said. “We tried to get to the foul line a little more so being able to see the ball go through the net was good for us.”
The semifinal game will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday evening.