Nov. 15, 2013
QUEENS, N.Y. - The St. John's men's basketball team started hot, finished with authority and used a strong performance at the free throw line to salt away a 73-57 home-opening victory over Wagner on Friday night.
Junior guard D'Angelo Harrison followed up a 27-point performance against then-No. 20/21 Wisconsin with a 25-point effort against the Seahawks, finishing 7-of-16 from the field and making all 11 of his free throw attempts as part of a 29-point night for St. John's at the line (29-for-36, 80.6 percent).
Meanwhile, the Red Storm limited Wagner to a 35.5 percent shooting night (22-of-62) and only 22 first-half points, playing defense without fouling and sending the Seahawks to the line for only nine attempts. St. John's drilled hard on defense for a week of practice after allowing the Badgers 51 second-half points and 11 made 3-pointers seven days earlier.
"I thought we made progress tonight in all the areas that needed to be addressed after our Wisconsin loss," said Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin. "The big picture for us is that we made progress. Incremental, but I thought we were better tonight on the defensive end of the court than we were against Wisconsin. There were some nice individual performances as well, but the important thing is that we got the `W.' Now we have to get ready for Bucknell, another NCAA-caliber team."
Wagner made four 3-pointers in the final 13 minutes, allowing the Seahawks to cut an 18-point deficit to six, but Harrison, a Preseason First Team All-BIG EAST selection, would not be denied. He made six of his first eight shots from the field helping the Red Storm to a 36-22 halftime lead. He finished the game with four assists and five rebounds .
Classmate Sir'Dominic Pointer totaled 10 points for the Red Storm but, per usual, came up big when the Seahawks closed within six with 3:44 to play. Six of Pointer's points came after Wagner came within eight points for the first time. Pointer slammed home home a dunk to make it 56-46; he scored on a long layup to make it 58-48; and his vicious putback slam with 2:47 left made it 64-54 and the Seahawks would get no closer.
St. John's used solid man-to-man defense to force the Seahawks into some tough shots in the first half and the Red Storm shut down any idea of an inside game for Wagner. But Wagner turned the tables on the Red Storm in the second half, shooting 45.2 percent (14-of-31) while holding the Red Storm to 34.8 percent (8-of-23). St. John's missed 10 of its first 13 shots from the field in the second half, giving the Seahawks chances to cut into the 14-point halftime lead and they did, finally hitting some outside shots.
Sophomore JaKarr Sampson had 13 points and seven rebounds for St. John's, which finished with a 45-34 rebound advantage. Senior Orlando Sanchez scored eight points with eight boards, sophomore Chris Obekpa swatted four shots and grabbed eight rebounds, and junior Jamal Branch scored eight in 20 minutes as a reserve.
St. John's moved to 15-2 all-time against Wagner with the Seahawks' last win coming in February 1956.
Non-conference action continues with three-straight contests at Carnesecca Arena. Following a tilt with 2013 NCAA participant Bucknell (Nov. 19), the Red Storm opens play with two on-campus games as part of the Barclays Center Classic presented by Continental Tire. Monmouth comes to Queens on Friday, Nov. 22 followed by Longwood on Tuesday, Nov. 26, prior to St. John's second appearance in two seasons at the new Brooklyn Barclays Center during the fall semester.