Jan 31, 2004
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Elijah Ingram's first smile of the day came after he hit a 3-pointer in the first half, and was soon gone.
The smile he had on his face after St. John's 71-55 victory over UCLA on Saturday won't be coming off for a while.
The sophomore guard matched his season high with 21 points and the Red Storm went outside the arc and the conference to avoid the longest losing streak in school history.
"I was smiling because I knew I was going to shoot it again," he said of the face he made after hitting the third of his five first-half 3-pointers. "I haven't felt like this since seven games ago. Every win is great to me."
The Red Storm hit a season-high 10 3-pointers in ending the seven-game losing streak in which all the losses were to teams in the Big East.
"This was a long time coming for us," said interim coach Kevin Clark, who has a 3-9 record since replacing the fired Mike Jarvis in December. "I want them to celebrate this one, enjoy this one and take the lessons from it."
St. John's (5-13) beat the Bruins of the Pac-10 for the sixth straight time and now lead the series between the schools 6-2.
It didn't matter to anyone at St. John's that the win was over a team outside the Big East.
"Games are games," Clark said. "We did think we could be much more physical than they were."
The only other time St. John's had lost seven straight games was 1918-19 when the team went 0-7.
Trevor Ariza had 19 points for the Bruins (9-8), who lost their fifth straight overall.
"We have to go back to the drawing board and make some changes," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We are not getting off to good starts offensively or defensively."
St. John's went 8-for-19 from 3-point range in the first half. The eight 3s were a season high in a game for the Red Storm, who had seven twice this season. The 24 points off 3s matched what UCLA managed in the first half as St. John's pulled away to a 41-24 lead at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm closed the half with a 10-0 run, six of the points coming on 3s by Ingram.
Ingram was 5-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half, while UCLA went 1-for-5.
"In the first half Ingram was absolutely spectacular," Howland said. "The 3s he made were money in the bank every time he shot it."
The long-range shooting worked to St. John's advantage in the second half as the Red Storm scored down low with the Bruins so worried about defending the 3-point line.
"We established the lead early and kept it and that was so important for us," Ingram said.
Kyle Cuffe had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Red Storm, who finished with a 49-30 advantage on the boards.
"We got back to the defense and rebounding," Clark said. "We knew in the second half they were going to get out at Elijah and extend him."
St. John's finished 10-for-27 from 3-point range with Ingram going 5-for-14.
UCLA was 5-for-15 from beyond the arc better than it was at the free throw line (4-for-15). Ariza missed all five of his free throws.
"Trevor was the only one in my mind who had a good game for us," Howland said.
Clark thought all his players had a great game.
"It is nice they can smile," he said. "I think they walked out after every loss with their heads held high, but I am sure they have more friends today."