Steve Lavin thought about going for the “dramatic effect.” His St. John’s Red Storm had just played a first half he would have graded an “F” and trailed Big East bottom feeder Butler, 33-30. A defeat would at the Garden would have ruined all the good karma the Red Storm had built in winning eight of its previous nine games to become not only relevant in the Big East but to the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Losing to Butler was not an option. “We seemed flat,” Lavin said of the first half. “We just didn’t have a sharp, crisp approach to anything we did.” So what would Lavin do to motivate the Red Storm at halftime? A few things came to mind. “I could break a chalkboard or rip my jacket off or throw my glasses on the ground and step on them or I could start to use vulgarities,” Lavin said. “But at this stage of the season … really.” Lavin has done a lot of the heavy lifting digging St. John’s out of an 0-5 start in the Big East. Now it was time for the Johnnies to lift themselves. So the coach didn’t say much. He figured his players were smart enough to understand the foolishness in throwing away all that has been gained. “Sometimes the motivation has to come from within if we’re going to sustain and be able to have the kind of finish we intend to,” Lavin said. So there was no yelling, screaming or breaking chalkboards or glasses. The players understood without being told. “We worked too hard to get in this position to let it slip and lose to Butler,” sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson said. If the second half can’t be considered a turning point to their remarkable season, as least it provided a continuance. The Red Storm took control with a 14-2 run to start the second half and never looked back. The result was a dominant 77-52 victory for their sixth straight Big East win. Lavin, perhaps coaching for the next game, a mammoth showdown at Villanova on Saturday, pointed out his team was fortunate to be playing at the Garden and not on the road. But it was good enough Tuesday night, though he graded his team a C-minus. Nevertheless, a team shows maturity when it can overcome a bad first half and blow away an inferior team. After not having “the appropriate sense of urgency in the first half,” according to Lavin, the Red Storm out-rebounded Butler, 32-10, in the second half. It was impressive the Red Storm (18-9, 8-6 Big East) turned the game with their swarming defense and extended zone pressure. The Johnnies also limited the Bulldogs (12-14, 2-12) to just 7-of-35 shooting over the final 20 minutes. They contested baskets, creating missed shots and turnovers that fueled their transition offense. Butler senior forward Khyle Marshall had 16 points and seven rebounds at halftime, but had zero points and zero rounds in the second half. “When the game gets going up and down St. John’s is really good,” Butler head coach Brandon Miller said.
Steve Lavin passed on the ‘break a chalkboard’ approach at half
New York Post | Feb 20