Nov. 17, 2010
QUEENS, N.Y. - Facing Columbia less than 39-hours after a grueling five-point loss at Saint Mary's, and having traveled 5,160 miles by air in the last 84 hours, it was only natural for the St. John's men's basketball team to feel even the slightest effects of jetlag. Trailing by four at the half, and being outrebounded by nine, the Red Storm players made adjustments and re-committed themselves to the glass to gut out a 79-66 victory - the first for head coach Steve Lavin on the St. John's sidelines.
"One of the things we have to do to get over the hump is learn that teams make runs on you, and when they make a run on you that it is okay," said Lavin, who was presented the game ball in the postgame locker room by the Red Storm seniors. "It's like [Bjorn] Borg and [Jimmy] Connors in a great tennis match, you don't win every point. That's good tennis, it is good basketball, and teams make runs on you and now you've got to answer. They punch you in the mouth, you have to come back and punch them in the mouth and hope by the end of the game you've got more punches in their mouth than they've put in yours and you hold on for a win."
Red Storm senior forward Justin Burrell had only two points - but what is marked as a common field goal at 6:31 in the scorebook signified much more. St. John's trailed by as many as six in the contest, but Burrell's monster second-half posterizing alley-oop slam from classmate Malik Boothe officially marked the end of the Red Storm's jetlag, ignited the crowd of 4,657 at Carnesecca Arena, and put the Red Storm up by 13. Columbia wouldn't get closer than eight the rest of the way.
Justin Brownlee scored St. John's first five points and a Paris Horne 3-pointer coupled with a Quincy Roberts jumper gave the Red Storm a 15-5 lead. After a Malik Stith 3-pointer, Brownlee added a long-range bucket before Stith splashed another trey to give St. John's its largest first half lead, 24-12 at the 10:17 mark. Columbia, however, went on a 14-2 run sparked by a trio of 3-pointers from Dyami Starks to tie the game at 26-26. The Lions, which missed their first five 3-point attempts, closed out the half by converting eight of their next 10 attempts from beyond the arc to take a 39-35 lead into halftime.
"We just really wanted to focus on two things: Rebounding, because they were plus-nine on the boards and then tagging their shooters," Lavin said. "We wanted to make all three of their shooters drivers and then get on the boards on both ends of the court."
Less than three minutes into the second half, the Red Storm used an 11-3 run to seize a 46-42 lead. St. John's caught fire early from 3-point range, shooting 5-of-6 from beyond the arc through the first eight minutes following the break. The game stayed within four points over the next four minutes before the Red Storm took command with an 11-2 run that was capped off by a 3-pointer by Dwayne Polee II that gave STJ a 66-53 advantage. St. John's kept Columbia at bay for much of the next five minutes and Burrell brought the crowd to its feet and put the punctuation mark on the entire contest with an emphatic slam dunk at the 6:31 mark.
Columbia managed to pull within 72-64 following a jumper by Noruwa Agho with 3:34 remaining in the game. St. John's contained the Lions the rest of the way, closing the game out with a 7-2 run.
D.J. Kennedy led the Red Storm with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go with six boards, two assists and three steals. Brownlee added a career-high 15 points and four boards, Stith had 11 points on a 3-of-4 night from 3-point range and Polee nearly posted double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. All of Polee's points came in the second half. Paris Horne enjoyed a solid night off the bench with eight points, four rebounds, two assists and three blocks.
St. John's outrebounded Columbia 41-40 and posted an impressive 16:8 assist-to-turnover ration in the win. The Red Storm also shot 45.5 percent from 3-point range, hitting 10-of-23 from long distance.
he Red Storm heads to the 2010 Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout for games on Thursday, Nov. 25, Friday, Nov. 26 and Sunday, Nov. 28 (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, local time).