ATLANTA - Try as they might, the St. John’s players just couldn’t win one for their coaches — the old one or the new one.
B.J. Elder scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half and No. 5 Georgia Tech beat the Red Storm 79-66 Sunday, just two days after Kevin Clark replaced Mike Jarvis as coach.
“Coach Jarvis was a great coach,” St. John’s forward Grady Reynolds said. “We wanted to win this game for him.”
Jarvis was fired Friday, only six games into his sixth season. St. John’s (2-5) lost four of its first five games, which hadn’t happened since 1922-23, and even a victory over St. Francis, N.Y., in his final game wasn’t enough to save Jarvis’ job.
“I thought today was a terrific effort by the St. John’s men’s basketball team,” Clark, the interim coach, said. “They showed tremendous character against an excellent Georgia Tech basketball team, against a lot of adversity.
“They rose to the occasion and I thought you saw tremendous growth in our basketball team and in the young men that play on it.”
The Yellow Jackets (10-0) continued their best start since 1989-90, and they’re one victory away from tying the best start ever. They held St. John’s to 40 percent shooting and forced 14 turnovers.
Luke Schenscher and Jarrett Jack each scored 12 points for Georgia Tech.
“We knew they were going to come out and play hard,” Jack said. “They had a lot to play for. But we played just as hard as they did and we were able to come out with the win.”
Elijah Ingram shook off a bloody nose to finish with 21 points for the Red Storm, and Andre Stanley added 15.
St. John’s got within four points midway through the second half on a 3-pointer by Ingram, but the Yellow Jackets slowly pulled away with the help of their pressure defense.
A 3-pointer by Georgia Tech’s Marvin Lewis made it 52-43, with Ingram getting hurt on the play. He was run over on the baseline by Clarence Moore and stayed writhing on the court for a few minutes.
Once he was helped to the bench, the Red Storm had a turnover and two missed shots, and when Jack made two free throws, Georgia Tech took a 54-44 lead.
St. John’s missed six straight shots at one point down the stretch, and a soaring, alley-oop dunk by Isma’il Muhammad made it 67-49 with 5:22 left, and the Red Storm couldn’t recover.
“I don’t think anyone thought we’d play as hard as we did,” Ingram said. “We wanted to focus on the game, not the coaching change. Everything else didn’t matter.”
Clark, in his first game ever as a head coach, didn’t make an appearance until just before the national anthem, walking out of the tunnel with Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt.
During the game, he stayed mostly quiet, allowing assistant Dermon Player to shout out most of the instructions.
“It’s really not that different,” Clark said of his debut. “You get ready for games the same way, you still watch film, develop a scouting report. The difference is when you step on the floor, and the difference there is that your team is suddenly looking for leadership from you.”
But Clark also made sure his players competed. Early in the second half, he stepped in when Abe Keita and Kyle Cuffe were arguing during a timeout. He talked individually to each of them, then made them shake hands before they returned to the court.
The problems on the court likely weren’t the only reasons Jarvis lost his job. Senior guard Willie Shaw was arrested on marijuana possession charges last month and kicked off the team. Shaw also was suspended for four games at the end of his sophomore season after testing positive for marijuana.
Junior college transfer Grady Reynolds was arrested just days before the 2002-03 season on charges he attacked a female student in a dormitory. This summer, Reynolds was ordered to perform community service and undergo anger management counseling to settle the charges, which would be dismissed in six months if he was not arrested again.
Jarvis led the Red Storm to the regional finals of the NCAA tournament his first season and they lost in the second round the next year. St. John’s also went to the tournament in 2002, losing in the first round, and the Red Storm won the NIT last season, finishing 21-13 by closing with a 7-1 run after going 2-6 in February.
One of the names mentioned as a possible replacement for Jarvis is Hewitt, who is very close to former St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca.
“It’s flattering that someone would think I should be a candidate for that job, but the fact of the matter is, I’ve got a great situation here,” Hewitt said. “Maybe five years ago, maybe eight years ago, I would have jumped at the opportunity.
“I still respect that job because of the people there, but I’ve got a great situation here.”
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
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