The referees let their whistles get the better of them during a second half that saw 33 fouls called, 18 on the home team. The game itself morphed into a chippy rock fight as St. John’s scratched and clawed it’s way back into a game it had no business being in.
After the Red Storm jumped out to a 18-11 lead, seven minutes into the first half, Providence finally started to roll, sparked by Kyron Cartwright, who entered the game and turned on the jets, forcing the tempo. He hit a three and followed with a swooping layup. A Jalen Lindsey three put PC up by one and the Friars were flying. Ben Bentil followed with a dunk, Rodney Bullock dunked and Cartwright buried another three, and just like that, PC led 28-20.
A Kris Dunn three, two Bullock layups and a Bullock three had Providence up 38-24 with four minutes to play and PC coasted to halftime, leading 43-31.
If PC started slow in the first half, the beginning of the second half was the polar opposite. Dunn quickly drove for a layup, Bentil hit two free throws and Dunn twisted for another layup for a 49-31 lead. Leading 54-38 at the 14:16 mark, the offense suddenly went stagnant and defensively, PC began picking up fouls. Bentil and Lindsey picked up their third each and over the next five minutes, St. John’s, led by Felix Balamou, Yankuba Sima and Durand Johnson, outscored the Friars, 12-2, to cut the lead to 56-50 with 9:32 remaining.
Dunn answered with a three and a posterizing dunk for a 61-52 advantage. A Malik Ellison free throw kept the lead at 9, but when Ben Bentil hit two free throws with 6:03 to play, the lead was back to double digits and would stay there for the remainder of the game.
The only question at that point was whether everyone would foul out or whether a brawl would break out. Bentil was pushed from behind on a breakaway dunk attempt, an intentional foul was called on Amar Alibegovic and Cartwright wrapped Bentil up and steered him away from the floor. After a foul was called on Ellison, a bench technical was slapped on St. John’s. With 3:30 to go, Durand Johnson fouled Bentil inside and a double technical was called on Johnson and Bentil as the players shoved each other.
The Friars’ lead peaked at 83-59 after two free throws by Tom Planek and with the bench cleared, St. John’s scored the final 7 points, but it was too little, too late.
The game was rarely fun to watch in the second half, as repeated whistles destroyed the flow of the game. Providence shot the ball well, hitting 49 percent overall, but struggled with free throw shooting. Only Bentil, who hit 8-9, shot well from the line, as the rest of the team shot 14-23. PC did outrebound the Johnnies, 43-34, but gave up 13 offensive boards and were outscored in the paint, 43-35. PC also committed 17 turnovers, a high number for this season’s team, against 16 assists.
Kris Dunn led the way with 26 points, including 16 in the second half, when he carried the team over the last 9 minutes. He also had 9 boards and 6 assists and would have had a boatload more assists had teammates finished plays at the basket. Bentil had an up and dow game, with 5 turnovers but scored 20 points and also had 9 rebounds. Bullock had 13 points and 8 boards, while Cartwright played a strong game with 11 points. For St. John’s, Sima gave Bentil problems and scored 14 points with 8 rebounds, and Balamou added 11 points and Alibegovic 10.
For PC, it’s a quick turnaround again as the Friars take on Marquette on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Dunk.
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