St. John's confident in MSG homecourt advantage in Big East Tourney - Metro US

St. John’s confident in MSG homecourt advantage in Big East Tourney

The Red Storm are expected to be in the mix for a berth into the NCAA Tournament.
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“Flush it.”

That’s the message Steve Lavin wanted his team to take away from No. 4 ranked Villanova’s 105-68 destruction of depleted St. John’s Saturday. Or in the parlance of New Yorkers, “fuhgetaboutit.’’

“Blowouts are the easiest games to get over.”Lavin said, who rested injured shot-blocker supreme Chris Obekpa along with sixth man Jamal Branch in preparation for the upcoming Big East tournament.”The hardest are the double overtime back-breakers where a guy hit one 30 feet off the glass or when you feel the referees determine the outcome.”

Levin knows firsthand teams can bounce back from such embarrassment.

“I just told the team my first year as a head coach we lost to Stanford by 48 points,” he recalled of his UCLA days. “At Stanford they called it the ‘Maples Massacre,’ at the Maples Pavilion. We ended up coming back to win the league and then played for a chance to go to the Final Four. My second year we lost by 41 in what they call the ‘Alaska Avalanche’ to North Carolina. We came back to get to the Sweet 16. Coaches know if you’re in this thing long enoughand you’re down two of your best players and playing one of the handful of best teams in the country you’re gonna take it on the chin.’’

The trick now is picking themselves off the floor in time for Thursday’s Big East Tournament battle with a Providence team they’ve already beaten twice.Lavin’s confident Obekpa, with a full week’s rest since turning his ankle Wednesday at Marquette, should be ready to wreak havoc in the paint.

St. John’s absorbed its worst loss since a 97-55 Duke blowout in 2002, while surrendering triple figures against the Wildcats for the first time ever.

“It’s tough, but we got to flush it,”said Phil Greene IV, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half Saturday.”It’s championship week now; a one game elimination at Madison Square Garden. We’re going to be prepared.”

Indeed, not only should the Red Storm be bolstered by the return of Obekpa and Branch, who’s missed the last two games with a strained groin, but the Garden usually brings out the best in them.

“We love playing in the Garden because it’s such a special venue and were familiar with it,” said Lavin whose team has gone 7-3 at the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Arena. “Familiarity is a positive for our team. The most important thing for us now is to get healthy and get ready for Providence.”

Another win over the Friars would likely set up a Villanova rematch Friday, assuming the Wildcats take care of business against the Seton Hall-Marquette winner. And give St. John’s a chance to flush the stink of Saturday’s Wells Fargo Center Wipeout right down the drain.

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