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Red Storm hopes for NIT bid despite loss to Villanova

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St. John’s isn’t sure if it will play again this season.

The Red Storm men’s basketball team’s season may have ended with a 66-53 loss to Villanova in the second round of the Big East tournament Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The tenth-seeded Johnnies will have to wait until Sunday to see if they have done enough for an NIT bid since a 1-7 end to the season killed any hope of an NCAA Tournament berth.

“We wish we could have advanced to the next round and win this game, but it happened like that,” said forward JaKarr Sampson, who garnered Big East Freshman of the Year honors “So it’s a lot of sitting around just waiting to see what we are going to do.”

The Red Storm (16-15) led early in the second half and was within 45-40 with 9:14 left in the game. A technical foul on Sampson for hanging on the rim helped spark six straight Nova points and a 50–40 Wildcats lead. Mouphtaou Yarou led No. 7 Villanova (20-12) with 18 points and Ryan Arcidiacono added 15.

Five consecutive points from Johnnies guard Phil Greene cut the lead to 50-45 with 7:14 remaining, but Villanova went on a 7-0 run to put the game away. St. John’s Head Coach Steve Lavin pointed to his team’s poor shooting, 17 turnovers and the Wildcats’ ability to get to the free throw line as the biggest reasons for their demise.

“We also didn’t convert or finish in the basket area,” said Lavin, who watched his team shoot 35.6 percent from the field.

Greene scored 16 points and Sampson had 13 to go along with nine boards for the Red Storm. The duo combined to take 37 of the team’s 59 shots in the fourth game since leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison was suspended. The players didn’t view their role as trying to carry the scoring load or having others defer to them.

“Just being aggressive, just taking what the defense gives you,” Greene said. “It just happened that way.”

The defeat left St. John’s in a position of waiting to see if its roller coaster season gets to continue.

“We hate losing,” Greene said. “We wanted to advance and play the next day.”

Former Cardozo star Southerland sends Syracuse into the quarterfinals: James Southerland scored 20 points, including six 3-pointers to lead the Orange to a 75-63 win over Seton Hall in the second round. No. 5 Syracuse faces No.4 Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinals back at MSG.

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