St. John’s tops Providence in Big East opener

The list of great freshmen in the Big East is long and

star-studded. Moe Harkless jumped to the top Tuesday night.

The 6-foot-8 forward scored 32 points – the most ever by a

freshmen in his Big East debut – and St. John’s had its best

offensive game of the season in a 91-67 victory over

Providence.

Harkless look stunned when he was told he passed Notre Dame’s

Troy Murphy and Georgetown’s Alllen Iverson, who both had 30 points

in their freshman debut.

”I don’t even know what to say,” Harkless said. ”It’s an

honor to be mentioned with those guys. Being able to break the

record is a great feeling.”

Fellow freshman D’Angelo Harrison, who had a season-high 25

points, didn’t know about the record until the postgame news

conference.

”Damn. That’s amazing to me. Hey, I set a record for myself,”

the 6-3 guard said with a laugh. ”Moe did a great job. He was

efficient all the way through. He deserves it.”

The win snapped the Friars’ seven-game winning streak and left

Providence coach Ed Cooley upset to say the least.

”Our kids were pathetic today in every way,” he said. ”Every

wart re-emerged. We were very selfish. We just weren’t tough and

when you’re not tough and show that passion to compete, that’s very

sad to see. We were coming along but played a team that wanted it

more.”

Phil Greene, another freshman, had 12 points for the Red Storm

(6-6, 1-0), who won their third straight after a three-game losing

streak and had a season-high for points. The previous best was 82

points in a 24-point win over UMBC.

The Red Storm came into the game averaging 66.7 points – 15th in

the 16-team Big East – but they had 47 and a 16-point lead at

halftime.

”Our defense made us play better offense,” Harrison said. ”It

all started on the defensive end. The scoring was on the fast break

and that makes it easy.”

Providence committed 20 turnovers, well over its season average

of 13.2, and the Red Storm turned them into 34 points.

”We were able to score off their scores,” St. John’s assistant

coach Mike Dunlap said. ”We had confidence we could answer with

something at the rim and we took more 3s. We want them to shoot it

with confidence. For good, for bad, we want them to take those

shots. The 3-ball helped us.”

Harkless, who was 14 of 17 from the field, had 13 rebounds for

his fourth double-double in a five-game span.

”He is terrific, a great player, a very, very good player,”

Cooley said of Harkless. ”He’s definitely a face of the Big East

and he will go down as one of St. John’s best players.”

Harrison, who was 8 of 12 from the field and had seven assists,

said Harkless ”can do everything I can do – shoot, pass, he’s

athletic, plays defense, blocks shots. He has everything. Moe’s a

pro for sure.”

Gerard Coleman had 20 points for the Friars (11-3, 0-1), who had

won three straight road games and had been allowing only 62.9

points per game.

Harrison had 18 points in the first half – three off his season

best for a game – as the Red Storm suddenly became an outside

shooting team. They were 5 of 13 (38.5 percent) from 3-point range

in the first half, well above the 26.1 percent mark they had

entering the game – a figure that put them last in the

conference.

A 3-pointer by Malik Stith with 4:36 left in the half gave St.

John’s its biggest lead, 37-18. The Friars got within 40-29 but

Harrison converted a three-point play to start a 7-2 run to close

the half.

St. John’s, which led by as many as 26 points, finished 35 of 62

from the field (56.5 percent), including 7 of 19 from 3-point range

(36.8 percent). The Red Storm improved to 6-1 at Carnesecca Arena

this season and snapped a streak of seven straight games where they

failed to reach 70 points.

”Carnesecca can be a little hornets’ nest when you pack it,”

Dunlap said, referring to the sellout crowd of 5,602. ”It has its

own advantages and it really helped us energy-wise, especially in

the second half.”

Providence was never able to make a run, never getting closer

than 12 points in the second half.

Cooley was asked about his team’s defense.

”Defense? That was awful,” he said. ”I promise you we will

correct that attitude. That was the worst defensive game I ever

coached and that will be emphatically addressed at 6 a.m.

tomorrow.”

This was the sixth straight game missed by St. John’s coach

Steve Lavin as he continues to recuperate from prostate cancer

surgery on Oct. 6. He has coached four games this season, winning

two. There is no timetable for his return as he continues on a

modified coaching schedule. He attends practice, recruits and meets

with alumni but he doesn’t have the stamina to coach games.

This was the 99th meeting between the schools and St. John’s

leads the series 57-42, although Providence has won 12 of the last

16.

There were only two officials – Tim Higgins and Ed Corbett – for

the opening 1:11 until Jeff Clark, who was stuck in traffic on a

rainy night in the New York City area, arrived.