NEW YORK (AP) — David Jones honored his late father with a fresh tattoo and a determined performance that helped St. John’s take down No. 20 Providence.
A grieving Jones scored 16 points, AJ Storr added 15 and the Red Storm beat the Friars 73-68 on Saturday, handing them a costly defeat in their pursuit of a second consecutive regular-season Big East title.
Jones came off the bench after missing two games to travel home to the Dominican Republic following his father’s death on Feb. 3. The forward, who also grabbed seven rebounds, said his dad taught him the game of basketball.
“He never played professional,” Jones said. “He was good, though. He had bounce.”
Jones spoke quietly about his recent ordeal and displayed a pair of tattoos on his forearm dedicated to his dad — including a new one with the dates of his birth and death.
“When he’s in pain, we feel it. We felt the loss,” center Joel Soriano said of his teammate.
Soriano had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Red Storm (15-11, 5-10 Big East), who had lost three straight and five of six. It was his 20th double-double this season — he began the day second in the nation in that category.
Posh Alexander added 10 points and a season-high nine assists. Dylan Addae-Wusu scored 13 for St. John’s, which built a big early lead before a split crowd at Madison Square Garden and stayed in front nearly the entire way.
Providence tied the score early in the second half but was never able to surge back ahead. A poor free-throw shooting team all season, St. John’s attempted only one foul shot in the first half but finished 15 for 18 at the line (83%).
Bryce Hopkins matched a career best with 29 points for the Friars (18-7, 10-4), who had won four of five. The only loss during that stretch was in overtime at then-No. 16 Xavier.
“I thought we faced a very desperate team today. You could feel the energy that was in the building coming in,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “This is the first time I’ve felt all year that my team just didn’t have it.”
Hopkins also grabbed nine rebounds, but Providence shot just 33% from the field. Devin Carter had 12 points and seven boards for the Friars, who are in a crowded race with three other teams atop the Big East standings.
“I’m very encouraged still where we’re at,” Cooley said. “I thought we competed today physically. I didn’t think we competed today emotionally and/or mentally. So I’m very disappointed in our group on that.”
St. John’s jumped out to a 25-9 lead after 9 1/2 minutes behind Alexander and Jones, but the Friars closed the first half with a strong push and trailed 37-35 at the break.
They tied it 39-all early in the second half before consecutive baskets from Soriano, a 3-point play from Storr and three buckets by Jones put the Red Storm in front by six.
Providence: Coming off a trip to the Sweet 16 last year, the revamped Friars are 13-0 on their own court but 5-7 away from home. They have dropped four of their past five road games.
St. John’s: It was the second-best win of a disappointing Big East season for the Red Storm, behind an 11-point victory on Jan. 15 at then-No. 6 UConn.
Red Storm junior guard Andre Curbelo was on the bench but not in uniform. Before the game, St. John’s said Curbelo wouldn’t play and that it was a coach’s decision. Coach Mike Anderson would not elaborate postgame or say whether Curbelo will play Tuesday against DePaul. Curbelo, an Illinois transfer, is averaging 9.6 points and a team-best 4.5 assists per game.
Johnnies Day festivities included a recorded message shown on the large video board from Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca, who celebrated his 98th birthday last month. … Longtime Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was in the stands and got booed when he was shown on the video board. Krzyzewski’s grandson plays at Division III New York University. Anderson said he appreciated Coach K visiting the Red Storm in their locker room before the game. St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg worked with Krzyzewski at Duke.
Providence: Will host No. 23 Creighton on Tuesday night in a pivotal Big East matchup. Senior point guard Jared Bynum was out injured when the Friars lost 73-67 at Creighton on Jan. 14, ending their nine-game winning streak. Hopkins had 20 points and 10 rebounds in that one.
St. John’s: Plays at DePaul (9-16, 3-11) on Tuesday night. The Red Storm won the first meeting this season 86-67 at Carnesecca Arena on campus. The skidding Blue Demons have dropped six straight.
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