Jan. 27, 2013
NEW YORK - Don't look now, but the youngest team in America is starting to develop a sense of maturity.
As recently as a few weeks ago, the well-documented youth of the St. John's Red Storm appeared at times to outweigh the squad's tremendous talent. Blown leads, an inability to close out games and frustrating losses were not uncommon for a squad that plays four freshmen, five sophomores and one JUCO transfer.
Over the last two weeks, however, bolstered by stifling mixed defenses, a renewed commitment to the boards and perhaps a little more experience under its collective belt, the young Red Storm has now authored a four-game winning streak, boosting St. John's into a tie for third place in the BIG EAST.
D'Angelo Harrison scored 24 points and freshman JaKarr Sampson added 19 as St. John's won its fourth-straight game for the first time in three seasons, 71-67 over Seton Hall on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Harrison, who is second in the BIG EAST in scoring with a 19.6 average, scored 10 of the Red Storm's final 12 points, a burst that began with nine minutes left and helped keep the Pirates, who closed within one point with 4:21 to play, at bay.
"The last four games had similar themes, stretches where we play brilliantly and then stretches where teams make runs on us. The opponent is always well-coached and the talent level of the BIG EAST is the best in America. There are many things we can improve upon after we watch the tape; both offensively and defensively," said St. John's head coach Steve Lavin. What I was most proud of was how we found a way, after Seton Hall went on a run, to go on a run of our own. We are trending in the right direction, and with that being said, these kids are very humble and realize we have a lot of work ahead of us."
Phil Greene IV had 10 points for St. John's (13-7, 5-3 BIG EAST) while freshman Chris Obekpa, who leads the nation with 4.6 blocked shots per game, swatted four shots. The big Nigerian finished with four points, the last two on a tip-in with 41 seconds left that gave the Red Storm a 67-62 lead.
Seton Hall's Eugene Teague scored a career-high 22 points for Seton Hall (13-7, 2-5 BIG EAST), which is starting to return to full-strength after a rash of injuries. Fuquan Edwin, the fifth-leading scorer in the conference at 17.2 points per game, was hounded by the Red Storm into a 4-for-15 game from the field including making one of six 3-point attempts.
Seton Hall had won three-straight over the Red Storm and four of the last five. This was Seton Hall's first game against St. John's in Madison Square Garden since 2006.
St. John's closed the first half on a 17-4 run and the Red Storm scored the first six points of the second half for a 44-33 lead. The Red Storm's biggest lead was 16 points, the last time at 53-37 on a jumper by Greene with 14:46 to play. Seton Hall used an 11-2 run to get within 60-59, but Harrison took over, hitting two jumpers and two free throws in the final 2:24.
The Pirates made eight of their first 10 shots from the field and were ahead 29-21 with nine minutes to play in the first half. The Red Storm capped their period-closing 17-4 run with a long 3 by Harrison at the buzzer.
DePaul visits Carnesecca Arena to wrap up the home-and-home series on Wednesday, Jan. 30, in a 9 p.m. nationally-televised contest on ESPNU. STJ won the first meeting in Rosemont, 71-62, on Jan. 19.