By Jim Scott
DNAinfo Senior Editor
MANHATTAN — St. John's remarkable comeback season came to a crashing halt in Denver as the Red Storm were knocked out of the NCAA tournament with a 86-71 loss to Gonzaga on Thursday.
St. John's (21-12) earned its way back into the tournament for the first time since 2002 by beating six ranked teams, including Duke, under first-year head coach Steve Lavin. The loss ended a surprising run by the Red Storm, but St. John's has a lot to look forward to with one of the top recruiting classes in the country heading to Queens next year.
"When they get out a month, two, three months, you know, a year, five years from now, they’re going to look back and realize that they brought St. John’s basketball back," Lavin said Thursday, the Associated Press reported. "While it doesn’t take the sting away from this loss, they set the bar high for anyone that follows."
Dwight Hardy led the St. John’s with 26 points and Sean Evans had four points and six rebounds filling in for injured senior D.J. Kennedy. Kennedy, who tore ligaments in his knee in last week's Big East tournament, was averaging a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game.
St. John's went into Thursday's game with a serious height disadvantage at almost every position. Gonzaga (25-9), which has nine players over 6-foot 5, outrebounded St. John’s by a 43-20 margin.
"Their size was able to dominate at the rim and in the lane at both ends of the floor," said Lavin. "That was a concern coming in and it played itself out.
"We haven’t been outrebounded like that all year."
Gonzaga moves on to play No. 3 seed BYU in the third round of the tournament on Saturday.