The largest question heading into the final play-in game in Dayton was simple: Which St. John’s team will show up against Arizona State? Would it be the squad that took down Marquette –– not once, but twice –– and Villanova earlier in the season? Or will it be the Johnnies who lost to DePaul (also not once but twice) and Georgetown?
After the first 20 minutes of the 74-65 loss, St. John’s left no doubt that it brought the latter version of itself to the University of Dayton Arena. Arizona State took advantage of a slow start from the Red Storm, going on a 27-9 run to jump out to a 35-17 lead with five minutes left in the first half.
Just about the only thing that went against Arizona State in the first half occurred in the later moments when the Sun Devils’ always animated head coach Bobby Hurley was assessed a technical after asking for an explanation on a foul called on Romello White.
While just about everything went right for the Sun Devils, St. John’s was able to end the half on a small 8-3 run, closing the gap to 38-25 at the break.
Despite St. John’s boasting its highest scoring offense since 2000, an abysmal 22-for-69 night (31.9%) plagued any serious comeback attempts, even with Arizona State’s inability to slam the door shut. The Sun Devils’ 21 turnovers allowed St. John’s to hang around, but the Red Storm’s poor performance paired with shooting 56.5% from the charity stripe just wasn’t enough for a late-game surge. Freshman guard Luguentz Dort led the way for Arizona State with 21 points while going an efficient 6-of-11 from the field.
St. John’s will continue the search for its first NCAA tournament victory since 2000. As for Arizona State, the Sun Devils’ search has come to an end after a 10-year drought as Hurley collects his first-ever tournament win as a head coach. One thing to keep an eye on is the Sun Devils’ 21-12 turnover-to-assist ratio — something that will land them in much bigger trouble against Hurley’s previous team, 6-seeded Buffalo, on Friday night.
North Dakota State advances to Round of 64 for the third time in six years
Before the tournament, North Carolina Central head coach LeVelle Moton was completely honest. He didn’t want any part of No. 1 Duke or Zion Williamson.
“These coaches are talking about, ‘I don’t care who we play,’ no, no, no. I care,” Moton told Raleigh’s WRAL. “Zion, that’s like me playing with my 6-year-old son one-on-one. I don’t want any part of that.”
Well, Moton no longer has to worry about Duke. In fact, he doesn’t have to worry about any other team in the country after Wednesday night’s 78-74 loss to North Dakota State.
The more entertaining game of the night featured a third-straight First Four loss for North Carolina Central –– the first team to accomplish the unfortunate feat. Down the stretch, it was Tyson Ward’s 23 points and North Dakota State shooting 19-for-24 from the free throw line that sunk North Carolina Central.
The Bison will now take their 16-seed and travel to Columbia, South Carolina, for a Round of 64 matchup with the No. 1 overall seed, the Duke Blue Devils.