Queens, N.Y. – The No. 15 St. Mary's College of Maryland men's basketball team nearly pulled the upset Tuesday night as the Seahawks owned a 54-48 lead with 9:11 left before succumbing to a 77-70 setback at the hands of Division I St. John's University in front of a Carnesecca Arena crowd of 3,088.
Seventh-year head coach Chris Harney stated, "I'm very proud of our guys tonight. They played hard. I told my team before the game to not think about all the hype. I told them to not think about whom St. John's is and the hype in playing in New York City. I wanted them to have a clear mind and to remain focused. We came in here and almost had a Hoosier's moment.
Harney added, "I'm thankful for the opportunity that Coach Lavin and the administration gave us. St. John's is a very good and athletic team. We had to prepare for them a little differently. We studied their game against C.W. Post and we watched Coach Dunlap's defensive DVD and we based our offense around that. I'm happy with the way our guys played and the experience they gained in playing a Division I school. Playing Division III basketball is like taking on a second major because it's all non-scholarship and these guys put forth a lot of effort every day and that I'm proud of."
The lead changed seven times in the first 7:11 of the second half before a triple by senior captain Mikey Fitzpatrick (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) at 12:49 put the lead in the hands of the Seahawks. St. Mary's owned its biggest lead of 54-48 at 9:11 on a jumper by junior captain Devin Spencer (Baltimore, Md./Towson Catholic). However, St. John's responded with a 23-6 surge from the 9:11-minute mark to reclaim the lead for good and own a 71-60 advantage with 1:03 remaining.
Spencer paced the stellar Seahawk effort in Queens with a game-high 25 points as the 5-11 guard was 8-of-19 from the floor, including burying five of the team's 13 triples. He went 4-of-4 from the charity stripe as well.
Joining Spencer in double-digit scoring were Fitzpatrick, sophomore captain Christian MacAuley (Silver Spring, Md./Paint Branch) and first-year Nick LaGuerre (Baltimore, Md./Lansdowne). MacAuley and LaGuerre tallied 11 points while Fitzpatrick added 10 off the bench.
MacAuley helped St. Mary's on the glass with a team-best eight rebounds while sophomore guard Kyle Wise (Baltimore, Md./Calvert Hall) added five boards and game-high four assists.
St. John's struggled offensively from the three-point line as well as the charity stripe. The Red Storm was 1-of-12 from downtown while missing 20 free throws in 42 attempts. SJU also could not handle the Seahawks' perimeter shooters as St. Mary's converted 13-of-34 three-point shots.
The Red Storm led by as many as nine points twice in the first half, including a 30-21 advantage with 2:58 remaining before the break. LaGuerre scored five-straight points to trim the lead to four but a Moe Harkless layup and one put the Red Storm back up by seven, 33-26. However, SJU only held a 33-31 halftime lead as Wise followed with a trey and a buzzer-beating jumper.
Photos courtesy of Vincent Dusovic, St. John's University staff photographer