Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Rapid Reaction: SJU 63, Saint Joseph's 61
By Kieran Darcy
What it means:St. John's finally won a game without D'Angelo Harrison -- on a buzzer-beater.
The Red Storm defeated Saint Joseph's 63-61 in the NIT first round on Tuesday night in Philadelphia on a fallaway jumper by Sir'Dominic Pointer as time expired. They advance to the second round.
St. John's (17-15, 8-10 Big East) had lost five games in a row, going from an NCAA tournament bubble team in late February to a No. 5 seed in the NIT. And they were 0-4 without Harrison, the team's leading scorer, who on March 1 was suspended for the rest of the season for conduct detrimental to the team.
Saint Joseph's (18-14, 8-8 Atlantic 10) saw its season end in heartbreaking fashion on its home floor.
The turning point: Things didn't start out well for St. John's -- coach Steve Lavin benched starting guard Phil Greene and starting center Chris Obekpa for the start of the game after they were late for a team meal. Walk-on David Lipscomb started instead, along with Christian Jones. Saint Joseph's jumped out to a 6-0 lead before Lavin inserted Greene and Obekpa in the game. The Red Storm rallied to take a 16-14 lead on Pointer's second 3-pointer of the first half. But then the Hawks drained three treys in less than three minutes, and led 32-26 at intermission.
Saint Joseph's led by as many as 12 early in the second half and still led by double digits, 51-40, midway through the second half. That's when St. John's went on a stunning 20-5 run to go up 60-56 on an Obekpa dunk with 2:05 left. The Hawks tied the game at 61 with 5.7 seconds remaining on two clutch free throws by Ronald Roberts Jr. The Red Storm quickly pushed the ball down the floor, and Pointer's jumper from the left wing went down at the buzzer, igniting a wild celebration.
Star watch:Jakarr Sampson had 16 points to lead St. John's, but Pointer was the game's MVP. The sophomore swingman tied his career high with 15 points, making six of his seven shots from the field, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. He also had team highs of seven rebounds and five assists, and added three blocked shots. Greene chipped in 10 points.
Carl Jones had a game-high 21 points for St. Joe's.
Number crunch: St. John's, which led the nation in blocked shots per game (7.4), had nine swats in the game. Obekpa, the second-leading shot blocker in the country, equaled Pointer's total with three. The Red Storm also had just seven turnovers, compared to 13 by the Hawks.
What's next: St. John's will play No. 1 seed Virginia. The date and location of that game are yet to be determined, but it will be played sometime between March 21 and 25.