After a tough opening day loss on the road against Wisconsin on Nov. 8, the Red Storm returned home and walloped Wagner 73-57 in their first Queens-based contest of the season on Nov. 15.
Junior guard D’Angelo Harrison led the way for the Johnnies offensively as he scored a game-high 25 points, a solid follow-up of his 27-point outburst against Wisconsin.
Harrison also chipped in with five rebounds and five assists as well, making it one of the most well-balanced individual performances of his St. John’s career
Sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson contributed 13 points and seven rebounds of his own, as he continues to give St. John’s a dependable option both offensively and defensively.
While the Red Storm faithful cheering inside Carnesecca Arena appreciated Harrison’s big game offensively, it was the Red Storm’s defense that was a big reason for the sizable margin of victory.
Sophomore center Chris Obekpa, who led all of Division 1 college basketball with four blocked shots per game last year, dominated the paint defensively once again. The Nigerian-born big man blocked four shots while grabbing eight rebounds in just 16 minutes.
However it was Sir’Dominic Pointer, the Red Storm’s most well-rounded defensive player, who provided the Johnnies with a spark late in the game to help St. John’s pull away from the late-charging Wagner Seahawks.
When Wagner clawed to within six points of the lead late in the game, the junior forward delivered two powerful dunks to help grow the lead to double digits, a lead the Red Storm would not relinquish.
“I feel like that’s just our game. Our defense creating our offense,” Sampson said after the game. “That’s the way we’re built.”
St. John’s followed up their hope-opening win with a statement 67-63 victory against a 2012-13 NCAA Tournament participant in the Bucknell Bison.
After missing all 10 three-point shot attempts against Wagner, the Red Storm once again shot poorly from long-range, hitting just one of eight shots attempted from beyond the three-point line in the first half.
St. John’s found themselves down 35-32 to Bucknell at halftime, but junior starting point guard Phil Greene IV came out firing out of the break. He hit two three pointers in the span of one minute to give the Red Storm a lead, on his way to a team-high 16 points.
The Bison found themselves back in the lead with 10 minutes left in the game, but the Johnnies went on a torrid run two minutes later, scoring 12 unanswered points to secure a resume-padding victory against a talented team.
“It was a tale of two halves,” fourth-year St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said after the game. “It was a quality win for our team given the stage of the season.”
Obekpa swatted seven more shot attempts to give him 11 blocks in his last two games, adding to his legend as one of the most prolific shot blockers in college basketball.
“We feed off blocks,” Pointer told reporters after the game. “Obekpa is the best in the country. We get hyped and that makes us more energetic.”
The Red Storm finishes off its four-game homestand with a Friday matchup against Monmouth at 9 p.m. and a Nov. 26 matchup against Longwood at 7 p.m.