Johnnies Win Holiday Festival; K-State Duo Suspended

After dropping back-to-back games to Atlantic 10 bottom feeders St. Bonaventure and Fordham, St. John’s and coach Steve Lavin finally have reason to smile.

The Johnnies won their second in-season tournament with an 85-69 victory over previously-unbeaten Northwestern in the championship game of the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.

Dwight Hardy scored 24 points and Justin Brownlee added a career-high 21 and was named Most Outstanding Player as St. John’s shot 80 percent from the field in the second half to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season.

“It is rare to shoot 80 percent in a half so I think our players executed well in two gears, in transition when the opportunity was there and then probing for good looks,” Lavin said. “It was all an indication of sharing the ball. I thought we were crisp, in sync, playing with a high confidence level and our defense picked up in the second half. You put it together and we had a breakthrough. If you keep working there’ll be a breakthrough.”

The Red Storm came into the Festival off losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham, games where they blew double-digit leads. If the opening 62-57 win over Davidson and the championship didn’t erase those losses, they at least put the Johnnies back on the winning track.

“Sometimes we just have breakdowns here and there and today we had fewer breakdowns and we came up with the win,” Brownlee said.

John Shurna had 28 points and Drew Crawford added 17 for the Wildcats (8-1), who were trying to match their best start since 1993-94.

The Red Storm, whose last of 15 Festival titles came in 2005, won their second in-season tournament. Brownlee had his then-career-high of 20 points in the championship game win over Arizona State at the Great Alaska Shootout. It is the first time St. John’s has won two in-season tournaments since Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca led the then-Redmen to wins in the Lapchick Memorial and the Cougar Classic. Brownlee was named MVP of both of the tournaments.

K-STATE DUO SUSPENDED

Preseason All-America guard Jacob Pullen, who had made 82 consecutive starts for No. 11 Kansas State, was suspended by the NCAA for three games just before the Wildcats’ game against UNLV on Tuesday night.

The school said Pullen and senior forward Curtis Kelly, a former Rice High School star, were being punished for receiving impermissible benefits in connection with the purchase of clothing at a local department store.

It said the length of Kelly’s suspension had not been determined by the NCAA’s student-athlete reinstatement staff.

The loss of the players hurt right away. Tre’Von Willis scored 16 points and Oscar Bellfield hit a key three-pointer in the final 70 seconds, leading UNLV to a 63-59 upset victory at Kansas City, Mo. The Wildcats (9-3) had trouble adjusting to the absence of their senior leaders and top two scorers.

Pullen is averaging 16.5 points and 3.8 assists and is the first Kansas State player selected to the preseason All-America team. Kelly is averaging 10.3 points and four rebounds.

(AP,  St. John’s athletics contributed)

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11 comments
Blake Waldman
Blake Waldman

martinek had to do down at some point - i am amazed he lasted this long.

hockeystat
hockeystat

Strait has been practicing. he just won't be in game shape. But I'd rather see him out there than either smurf Hickey or goon Carkner.

Sam Mlotok™
Sam Mlotok™

Unless Strait comes back 2-3 inches taller, 20-40 pounds heavier, let's pretend like this means we will start winning games again.

Erik Johnson
Erik Johnson

Well, that's something.  Anyone hear any rumblings about Lubo?  I think his absence has had a lot to do with the recent losing skid.

Joey Ferguson
Joey Ferguson

so... does strait play tonight? give him some time to practice? hmm.... and i thought martinek was already on the IR.... guess not

Don22
Don22

On this defense crew, he will definitely add some steadiness.  I thought Radek did a better job than most would agree, but I'm glad to see Strait back.  It is what it is....

crazyjoedavola
crazyjoedavola

Still hasn't been cleared to skate. Its going to be a while.

orangeblue
orangeblue

@Erik Johnson it has so much to do with the skid.  Lubo was essential to this defensive group.  I understand Amac is the alt capt, but he is nowhere close to a leader as Lubo is.  That kind of veteran leadership is irreplaceable on this kind of team where they lack the kind of vet lubo is, nabby too.

grand_puba
grand_puba

@Joey Ferguson Honestly I didn't even realize Martinek was hurt, just thought he was riding the pine. According to Staple's Twitter looks like Strait is playing and Carkner will be scratched.