St. John's faced its first pressing team of the season, and the eighth-ranked Red Storm were pretty impressive.
Freshman point guard Erick Barkley scored 18 points and didn't have a turnover Wednesday night as St. John's beat Providence 84-57, holding the Friars to their lowest point total of the season.
"Providence was the first real pressing team we faced this season, and what you do against pressure early sets the tone and Erick did a great job," Red Storm coach Mike Jarvis said.
St. John's, playing without leading rebounder Tyrone Grant, who is out indefinitely with a broken bone in his right wrist, was up 40-29 at halftime and committed just four turnovers while forcing 11, quite a contrast to what Providence is used to as it had a plus-5 in turnovers this season.
"It all came down to who was in better shape, and obviously we were," Barkley said.
The Red Storm (16-3, 7-1 Big East) won their fourth straight game and the 13th of their last 14. The conference record for St. John's is its best since going 7-1 in 1985-86, but it only gets tougher for the Red Storm. They play No. 2 Duke on Sunday, then return to Big East play at No. 20 Syracuse next Wednesday and then play No. 1 Connecticut at home next Saturday.
"This was the important game, period," Jarvis said. "Forget about Sunday. This was a league game. Sunday's game is like going to the prom. You get all dressed up and go to Madison Square Garden. Sunday is a fun day. Tonight was a work day, and it's a win and it's a road win."
St. John's took control early against the Friars (12-6, 5-4), who had won six of their last seven games and are 4-2 this season against teams ranked in the top 25.
The Red Storm led 23-12 with 9:43 left in the first half on a three-point play by Barkley. Thhalftime lead was 40-29, with their last points coming on a 30-footer by Barkley as the shot clock wound down.
The previous low output for the Friars was 65 points in a win over Seton Hall, and their previous five losses were by a combined 27, the same total by which St. John's won Wednesday night. St. John's shot 51 percent for the game (32-for-63), while the Friars were 22-for-68 (32 percent).
"It was one of those nights that you see once a year," Providence coach Tim Welsh said. "It's tough when you have it happen against one of the top teams in the country. St. John's was very good against our press. They have a lot of good ballhandlers."
Bootsy Thornton added 17 points for St. John's, Reggie Jessie had a career-high 16 and Lavor Postell added 14. Ron Artest finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in addition to doing an outstanding defensive job on Providence's Jamel Thomas.
"Before the game Ronnie told me he might not get any points because of the other things he was going to have to do," Jarvis said. "It's rare you see such an effort from someone who didn't score 20 points."
Thomas entered the game averaging 22.8 points per game and finished with 14 on 5-of-18 shooting, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range.
"We knew they were a smaller team and they had beat some good teams and we didn't have Tyrone," Artest said. "But down the line, man for man, they couldn't score on us or stop us."
Welsh said the lack of offense wasn't Thomas' fault.
"Everybody focuses on Jamel," he said. "We have to have other guys knock down some shots and we didn't have that happen tonight. I like to wipe things like this off the board. If you don't, negatives can carry on for three, four games, and we can't afford that."
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