We are all probably familiar with the oft-used phrase “close but no cigar.” The origins of this phrase are more than likely unknown to time but the meaning can sum up what St. John’s has been going through this season – close but no cigar.
On Tuesday night, the Red Storm dropped another all-important conference game to the 15th ranked Villanova Wildcats and for the first 36 minutes of this game, it was all Villanova. Showing up to actually play in the last four minutes of the second period, St. John’s tried hard to make another mad dash to the final buzzer but games are usually won all night long and not just in the last few minutes of play. Give the Johnnie’s bench credit – St. John’s was without Posh Alexander (in a walking boot again due an injured ankle) and Julian Champagnie was fighting an injured right hip and was for the most part an non-factor in this game. The Red Storm bench, led by Aaron Wheeler and Stef Smith made a valiant effort to bring the Red Storm back into this game but, as the saying goes, close but no cigar.
Wheeler scored a career-high 31 points against Villanova including six three-pointers and Stef Smith joined the fight with another 12 points but let’s face it, you can’t continually pull miracles out in the waning moments of basketball games consistently. What has plagued the Red Storm this season is being consistently inconsistent and missing intensity every game. Yes, there have been some great moments and St. John’s came to life with about four minutes left in this game but when you’re down 20 points in a basketball game, it’s hard to pull out the upset. The Johnnies did make a 23-6 run in the final three minutes of the game but it’s too little, too late and Villanova finished off the night with a 75-69 conference win over St. John’s. Valentines Day isn’t just a day for lovers – it’s a signal to NCAA basketball programs to kick it into high gear or forget about the postseason. St. John’s sits at 13-10 and 5-7 in Big East play and if they don’t find a way to win and win big the next couple of weeks, they will be watching March Madness on television in a local restaurant come next month.