NEW YORK -- Winning ugly beats losing any day of the week.
St. John's did what it had to do Wednesday, defeating Marquette at Madison Square Garden, 60-57. A 1-5 start in the Big East would have been a big hill to climb, in terms of the Red Storm being a viable NCAA tournament candidate. Instead the Red Storm are 2-4 -- with plenty of work to do, but their goal still well within reach.
"I’m pleased that we were able to find a way to win, manufacture a W," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "Sometimes you just need to find a way to get a W so you can feel good about yourself and get the pep back in the step when you have a stretch where you feel snake-bitten or down on your luck."
St. John's entered this game having lost four of five, and luck didn't have a whole lot to do with it. The stretch included an 11-point loss to Seton Hall, an 18-point loss to Villanova, and blowing an 11-point second-half lead at DePaul.
But the Red Storm showed guts Wednesday, with leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison having one of the worst games of his outstanding career, shooting 3-for-18 from the floor.
Harrison has played with a calf injury the past two games, and it may have hampered him against Marquette.
"He doesn't have the lift [on his shot]," Lavin said. "I think it's clearly affecting him." Harrison was not available after the game.
But fellow senior Sir'Dominic Pointer picked up the slack, with about as good an all-around game as you'll see in college hoops this season. Pointer finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and six blocked shots, seemingly in the middle of every big sequence.
"I thought Pointer had a magnificent game," Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. "I thought he was really the key to their win. He did everything."
Pointer was the key, but he did have help. Rysheed Jordan also scored 15 points, Phil Greene IV chipped in 11, and Chris Obekpa had 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. St. John's shot just 36.7 percent from the field, but limited Marquette to 31.7.
Most importantly, with the game tied 52-52 coming out of the final media timeout, the Red Storm made more plays down the stretch -- as the more experienced group, playing at home, should.
"We've got a good team," Pointer said, when asked what he learned from this game.
He's right, in one sense. St. John's starting five can match up with just about anybody.
But they're also a flawed team. Each member of the starting five played at least 35 minutes Wednesday except Obekpa, who played 31.
Reserves Jamal Branch, Amar Alibegovic and Joey De La Rosa combined for 22 minutes, one shot attempt and two points. (Marquette outscored St. John's 21-2 off the bench.) And it was a rare night when the Red Storm weren't working around foul trouble.
St. John's lack of depth is a problem that isn't going away.
But that's an issue for another day. A win is a win, regardless of style points.