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St. John’s breakthrough may bring on Big East run after all

Rick Pitino vowed that his all-white suit and white shoes would be back in the closet for a while, and that he wasn’t even planning to take the baby out on Sunday afternoon until his wife insisted he follow the White Out promotion. At Madison Square Garden, all 12,061 of his customers wore white T-shirts and waited on the backs of their seats.

So on Saturday, Pitino contacted his friendly Armani dealer a few blocks away. And on Sunday, he trotted out courtside looking like John Lennon leading the Beatles across the street on the cover of his Abbey Road album.

Glenn Taylor Jr. said with a laugh. that suit. “

Please credit the costume if you wish. More relevant to the Johnnies’ 80-66 victory over No. 15 Creighton was what the players themselves did in a season-best 40 minutes. It’s no secret that St. John’s has played with limited margin for error all year. On Sunday, he solved that dilemma by playing virtually error-free.

Rick Pitino speaks with his team during the second half of the game against Creighton on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Jason Suzens/New York Post

The Johnnies had 24 assists and only three turnovers, which was near perfect for getting the game going offensively. They had heroics from Taylor (10 rebounds), Danis Jenkins (27 points, 6 dimes) and Jordan Dingle (18 points on 8-of-13 shooting). They tormented the Blue Jays defensively and threw the Blue Jays into chaos on numerous occasions at the buzzer.

More specifically, after the Blue Jays twice erased double-digit leads, each time this season the Johnnys answered without much of a second-half cushion.

“It’s great to see a game like this,” Jenkins said. “Finally.”

Is it already too late? The truth of the calendar says that might be the case since the Johnny’s are running out of games. Sunday’s win should strengthen their NET rating (49th), but their remaining three games are against the three Big East teams with the lowest NET numbers: Butler (63), Georgetown (198) and DePaul (320). It will be a match against. That doesn’t help.

Red Storm forward Glen Taylor Jr. celebrates during the second half of a game against the Creighton Blue Jays at Madison Square Garden. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

What will happen?

Well, two things happen. It would be great if Sunday were a revelation rather than an aberration. Asked if he thought the Johnnies were an NCAA team, Creighton coach Greg McDermott said:

“We did it today. So did everyone watching today. This league is unforgiving, but… [St. John’s] You can beat anyone at any time. ”

And that brings us to No. 2, which may be Sunday’s biggest takeaway. Beating a top-15 team in Creighton (just five days after Creighton crushed top Connecticut State) should at least give the Johnnys a positive memory of how to beat a top team at the Garden.

Big East teams have worried for years, decades in fact, that what had long looked like an overwhelming advantage for St. John’s might come true. No matter how good or bad the year is, they’ll still be able to watch the most important games of each season on their alternate home floor. And they hardly ever captured that moment. That’s what a totally average Georgetown team did a few years ago. UW and Syracuse did that, and as the tournament progressed, the Garden easily morphed into Gampel Pavilion West and Carrier Dome South.

But St. John’s has quietly disappeared year after year, even in an unusual year when it had a good chance to make it.

If he can do that this year, it could be his last fighting chance, even though he almost certainly needs four wins in four nights to clinch the title. But what if they could make it through the regular season and beat, say, DePaul in the first round and Creighton in the quarterfinals? This gives them his 21st win and also a Quad-1. At least for the trip to Dayton, you’re probably on the right side of the fence and can get back into the conversation.

After the second half whistle, Danis Jenkins made a dunk. Jason Suzens/New York Post

“Today they got a chance to see what great basketball looks like,” Pitino said as his team played at the Garden under bright lights and in front of an enthusiastic crowd eager to take them to the finish line. He talked about the wonderful two hours he had spent. “We have to learn it over and over again. Is it too late? Do you know?”

Pitino can do his part. Lou Carnesecca wore that tattered old sweater only on January 14, 1985. Because it was freezing in Pittsburgh that night and his wife Mary claimed that she could prevent a cold from turning into the flu. St. John’s won that night. They defeated No. 1 Georgetown 12 days later. They kept winning—he won 13 in a row in a sweater!—before losing again. Louie knew better than to question his wife’s ways or instincts.

Thirty-nine years later, perhaps Pitino should do the same.

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