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Johnnies end season with NIT loss to VA

TimesLedger Newspapers

Phil Greene IV’s team-high 18 points Sunday afternoon weren’t enough as No. 5 St. John’s lost to top-seeded Virginia 68-50 in the second round of the NIT tournament at Paul Jones Arena.

The Cavaliers (23-11) went on a 20-3 first-half run that the Red Storm (17-16) was never able to recover from. St. John’s came within seven of Virginia midway through the second half, but could never come closer than that.

St. John’s struggled to contain Virginia’s offense throughout the game, allowing the Cavaliers to shoot 54.5 percent from the field. Justin Anderson scored 18 for the Cavaliers, including nine from the free throw line, compared to just six from the entire St. John’s team on only 10 attempts.

The Red Storm’s offensive struggles extended further than the free throw line. St. John’s shot just 33 percent from the floor for the game, including an ugly two of 16 from the three-point line. Greene was the only bright spot for the Red Storm offensively, scoring 14 of his points in the second half. Freshman JaKarr Sampson, who was named Big East Rookie of the Year, scored 14 points on the day.

Playing at Virginia posed a challenge for St. John’s, as the Cavaliers currently have a 19-game home winning streak. That winning streak includes victories over top programs such as Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Maryland.

This season’s appearance marks the second time in three years that St. John’s made a postseason tournament. The Red Storm missed the postseason last year after making the NCAA tournament in 2011.

For a team that is expected to return its entire roster next season, the opportunity to play in the NIT tournament was important to the team’s growth.

“Extending our season with the opportunity to participate in the NIT was a valuable experience for our young team,” Red Storm head Coach Steve Lavin said. “This season served as an important building block in continuing our efforts to elevate the St. John’s basketball program into a sustainable winner.”

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