St. John’s Gets No. 20 on Senior Day

The St. John’s Red Storm got their 20th win of the season with a dominant 81-70 win over Georgetown on Senior Day Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

This was the last regular season home game for stalwarts D’Angelo Harrison, Sir’Dominic Pointer, and Phil Greene IV, as well as Jamal Branch and Khdim Ndiaye.

St. John’s Head Coach Steve Lavin said of the senior class, “I feel very fortunate and blessed to have coached this group of players. They committed to St. John’s at a low point in our program’s history. It’s been a special experience to watch them progress over the years and to go out with a win over Georgetown in their last true home game at The Garden was very special.”

With the win, St. John’s improved to 20-9 and 9-7 in Big East play. This might very well have been the win to get them into the NCAA Tournament. They can continue to improve that resume in their last two regular season games, at Marquette on Wednesday the 4th at 9:00 pm, and at Villanova on Saturday the 7th at 2:00 pm.

Sir’Dominic Pointer said of making the NCAA Tournament, “We still need to get a couple more wins. If we come out and play our game down the stretch, we have a chance to win out and get an automatic bid to the tournament. It will take a lot of hard work. We have improved steadily since our freshman year, and if we have the opportunity to play in the tournament, it will be a great feeling.”

St. John’s was dealt a tough blow early in this one, as D’Angelo Harrison took two quick fouls in the first 25 seconds, and he did not play at all the rest of the first half. Harrison averaged 18.4 points per game, and having him out could have been very damaging. Phil Greene said of playing without Harrison, “Everyone on our team is a threat to score. D’Angelo got in early foul trouble so we all had to pick up the slack. Everyone was aggressive and played great defense. When everyone attacks, we know that we will be fine.”

St. John’s jumped out to a 25-13 lead on a Jordan three with 10:51 left in the first half. They opened up a 15-point lead, 34-19, on a Pointer jumper with 6:48 left. The Red Storm maintained a 10-point lead throughout the rest of the first half, and led 43-32 at halftime. Pointer had 13 points, Greene had 11, and Rysheed Jordan had 10 in the first half.

The second half was more of the same, as St. John’s opened up a 16-point edge, 52-36, on a Greene three at the 15:18 mark. St. John’s kept the lead between 12 and 15 points the rest of the way, and the closest, and I use that term loosely, that Georgetown got was 11, at 73-62, on an Aaron Bowen three with 1:55 remaining. Jordan responded with a couple of free throws, and Pointer made four of his own, including two with 57 seconds left to seal the win and make it 79-65.

St. John’s was led by Greene, who had a career-high 26 points on 9-for-15 from the field, including a superb 6-7 on three-pointers, with 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Pointer had 24 points on 8-for-13 from the field, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks, and heard “MVP!” chants late in this one. Jordan had 15 points (3-9 FG, 2-6 on 3-pt), 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Harrison played nearly the entire second half, so in 20 minutes overall, he had just 1 points on 0-for-4 shooting, 0-2 on threes, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks.

Jamal Branch stepped up in place of Harrison, as he had 10 points (5-11 FG, 0-1 on 3-pt) and 5 rebounds in 28 minutes. Lavin said of Branch’s performance, “Jamal Branch had one of the better games in his career today. He’s had a number of good games this season such as at Creighton and at Xavier. Jamal was very sharp in his decision making.”

Lavin said of the team’s overall performance, “Our team showed balance today. They have more confidence now because different guys such as Phil [Greene IV] and Sir’Dominic [Pointer] have demonstrated the ability to step up and carry us. This group still hasn’t played their best basketball.”

Lavin said of this game against Georgetown compared to their loss in Washington, D.C. to them on February 17th, “In our matchup at Georgetown, they were the aggressor. Today, we were the aggressor from start to finish for a full 40 minutes. It was a complete role reversal from the first matchup. When we have a full complement of healthy players we are a good team. We played zone the entire game today, and it was very effective. “

Greene IV said of that, “Coach gave us a few days off to get focused and rested. I used those days to get in the gym and prepare for today’s game. Everyone on our team was aggressive including Jamal [Branch], Chris [Obekpa], Sir’Dominic [Pointer] and Rysheed [Jordan]. It was a great team win.”

On stepping up against rivals like Georgetown and Syracuse, Greene IV said, “I’m always ready to step up when my team needs me. Whenever the other team went on a run, I came up with the big shot. I just wanted to do everything I could to make sure that we won the game.”

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