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Sunday, November 28, 2010
Rapid Reaction: St. John's 67, Arizona St. 58

By Kieran Darcy

WHAT IT MEANS: St. John's defeated Arizona State 67-58 in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout. The Red Storm move to 4-1 on the season, pick up their fourth straight win, and pick up their first piece of hardware under new coach Steve Lavin. It's their first regular-season title since 2005.

RISING STAR: St. John's senior forward Justin Brownlee led the Red Storm in scoring in all three games of this tournament, and was named the tourney's most outstanding player. Brownlee -- who Lavin said was St. John's most improved player from a year ago -- scored 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field against the Sun Devils.

FLIPPING THE SCRIPT: St. John's blew halftime leads in seven of its 16 losses last season, squandered a two-point halftime lead in its season opener against St. Mary's, and almost squandered a 12-point halftime lead in the opening round of this tournament against Ball State, before winning in overtime. On Saturday night, St. John's trailed 30-20 at intermission, but outscored Arizona State 47-28 in the second half. The Red Storm shot just 7-for-27 (25.9 percent) in the first 20 minutes, but shot 16-for-25 (64 percent) on the other side of the break. The full-court pressure defense was key, forcing 16 Sun Devils turnovers.

CRITICAL JUNCTURE: The biggest play of the game was actually a fluke -- St. John's had already taken back the lead, 55-53, but Arizona State will still very much in the game. The Red Storm had the ball, with just under four minutes to play and the shot clocking winding down, when Malik Stith was forced to heave a desperation 3 at the basket from the top of the key. The ball hit the backboard with a thud and went in, expanding the St. John's lead to five. Stith admitted after the game that he didn't call "glass."

REDEMPTION SONG: Dwight Hardy -- who Lavin has said is as good a shooter as he's ever coached -- struggled with his shot through the first four games of the season, and was 0-for-7 from the field in the first half against Arizona State. But he stepped up in a big way in the second half, tallying 14 points, including a 4-point play.

BENCH MARKS: Reserve guards Stith and Paris Horne continue to make a big impact off the bench for the Red Storm. Horne had 11 points and Stith had 10 in the championship game victory.

QUIET MEN: D.J. Kennedy -- St. John's leading scorer a season ago -- was a non-factor on Saturday night, scoring just two points and taking just three shots. He was also on the bench in the beginning of the second half, in favor of Justin Burrell. Also, freshman Dwayne Polee -- who was the Red Storm's best player in the season opener against St. Mary's -- had another quiet game, with just three points in 13 minutes of action.

WORK IN PROGRESS: St. John's shot just 65.3 percent from the foul line last season -- among the worst team percentages in Division I -- and Lavin vowed to work on that this season. However, the Red Storm were just 16-for-27 from the charity stripe against Arizona State (59.3 percent) -- they're lucky it didn't cost them.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Red Storm have a long, but happy, flight home ahead of them. Their next game is on Wednesday night, Dec. 1, against Wagner, at Carnesecca Arena. Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and ESPNNewYork.com will be there.