St. John's loss ends in near-brawl

It's official -- St. John's has imploded.

Less than a week ago, the Red Storm were an NCAA Tournament bubble team, with a very real chance of making the Big Dance.

Then last Friday, coach Steve Lavin announced that he had suspended leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison for the rest of the season, for unspecified transgressions.

A day later, St. John's lost at Providence, 62-59. And on Tuesday night, the Red Storm suffered an embarrassing loss to Notre Dame, and embarrassed themselves further by instigating a near-brawl in the closing minutes.

St. John's was actually in front at halftime, 26-22. But the second half was a totally different story. The Fighting Irish outscored the Red Storm 44-14, turning a valiant effort for 20 minutes into the Red Storm's most lopsided loss of the season.

With 1:46 remaining, and the outcome certainly no longer in doubt, St. John's swingman Sir'Dominic Pointer and Notre Dame forward Cameron Biedscheid -- who had previously been jawing at each other -- exchanged shoves during a stoppage in play. Then Pointer decided to up the ante by running at Biedscheid and throwing a roundhouse at his head.

Both players were ejected, but Pointer was clearly the aggressor. St. John's forward Amir Garrett was also ejected for leaving the bench to enter the scrum.

St. John's (16-13, 8-9), which won five straight games to finish off the month of January and was once tied for third in the Big East, has now lost three in a row, and five of its past six.

The Red Storm will be without both Harrison and Pointer for Saturday's regular season finale against No. 15 Marquette at Madison Square Garden. Pointer will serve a mandatory one-game suspension for being ejected for fighting, and it remains to be seen if Garrett will be suspended, too.

There's simply no excuse for the lack of composure. Yes, St. John's is a young team. But Pointer is a sophomore, with 61 games and 42 starts under his belt. Biedscheid, on the other hand, is just a freshman.

Lavin took over at St. John's in the spring of 2010 and did a wonderful job in his first season, guiding an inherited roster to the school's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2002.

But now his Red Storm are on the verge of missing the Big Dance for the second year in a row.

The low point of Lavin's St. John's tenure thus far was Tuesday night. It doesn't get much uglier than the second half in South Bend -- particularly the final two minutes.