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Grown-up Johnnies show poise, promise

12/21/2013

NEW YORK -- St. John's won another game it was supposed to Saturday, and there are reasons to believe this team is coming together heading into Christmas.

The Red Storm were impressive offensively in a 96-87 victory over Youngstown State at Carnesecca Arena, but they were even more impressive after it.

D'Angelo Harrison, who poured in a season-high 29 points against the Penguins, drained five of his six 3-point attempts and set a new school record for 3-point makes in the process.

"I had a lot of open shots," Harrison said. "Coach kept telling me to be aggressive, but be more efficient. I’ve done that the past two games."

"I can’t do it without these guys," Harrison added, motioning to his teammates in the press room.

This is the same Harrison who was suspended for the final six games of last season for conduct detrimental to the team.

"It was hard to say at the beginning, but I thank [Steve Lavin] for suspending me," Harrison said. "He made me change a lot of things about myself. I came back a better person -- the guys see it, everybody sees it. I thank him for that, and I thank the guys for taking me back on the team."

Fellow junior Sir'Dominic Pointer was one of four St. John's players in double figures Saturday, with a career-high 16 points. He also got tangled up with Youngstown State's Kendrick Perry midway through the first half -- Perry was called for a flagrant foul, but Pointer chose to walk away as opposed to escalating things.

"I was just trying to cool down," Pointer said. "He hit me in my lip. I was just trying to cool down and keep myself under control -- we still got a game -- and not lose my head."

This is the same Pointer who was suspended for a game late last season for his role in a brawl against Notre Dame.

Harrison is now averaging 21.9 points per game, and Pointer fills up the box score seemingly every night off the bench. If those two keep playing this way, and keep their heads, this team can win a lot of games.

Those two weren't the only ones who made big contributions Saturday. Phil Greene IV chipped in 17 points and Jakarr Sampson added 16 points and 13 rebounds.

St. John's won despite being without freshman guard Rysheed Jordan, who missed the game to be with his ill mother in the hospital in Philadelphia.

Five other players scored, and Orlando Sanchez nearly hit double-digits himself with nine points, despite playing only 17 minutes due to foul trouble.

"Considering we were down a man, playing without Rysheed Jordan, and then the early foul trouble, our kids showed some resourcefulness to get the W," Lavin said.

There are still improvements to be made. The Red Storm were outrebounded by the Penguins 40-33, including 16-9 on the offensive glass. Lavin also mentioned being unhappy with his team's dribble containment on defense and foul total.

"I didn't think we were really clicking or hitting on all cylinders," Lavin said. "I don't know what that means."

It means this team won a game it probably wouldn't have a year or two ago. And it can still get a lot better.

St. John's doesn't have a signature win yet this year. It came up short in its two games against ranked opponents, Wisconsin and Syracuse.

How many games will it need to win in the weaker, revamped Big East to make March Madness? That remains to be seen.

But is this team, led by the junior class of Harrison, Pointer and Co., growing up?

There's no doubt.