Red Storm Fall to Detroit; Losing Streak Now at Three

The St. John’s men’s basketball team couldn’t dig itself out of a first-half hole on Dec. 5, falling on the road to Detroit 69-63 at the newly-christened Dick Vitale Court at Calihan Arena.

Freshman forward Moe Harkless scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double, while freshman forward Sir’Dominic Pointer finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in his return to his hometown Detroit.

It was the Red Storm’s fourth loss in their five games. Of the five, four have been without head coach Steve Lavin, who has not been on the bench since the team’s Nov. 18 loss to Texas A&M at Madison Square Garden.

“I liked our effort, which I thought, physically, was up a peg in the second half,” said assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who’s filling in for Lavin. Obviously turnovers are a huge issue. We work incredibly hard to get stops and in transition. Sometimes we struggle with taking care of the ball and keeping it moving, and sticking to the system, but that’s all very understandable with a new team. There are plenty of positives to build on in terms of work moving forward.”

The first half was marked by long runs for both teams. The Johnnies (4-5), who have made a habit of starting slowly this season, fell behind 8-0 and were forced to take a timeout at the 17:46 mark.

Down 15-9 with 13:42 left in the half, the Red Storm ripped off a 10-2 run to take its only lead of the game, 19-18. Pointer put an exclamation point on the stretch with dunks on back-to-back possessions, and a jumper with 8:29 left that gave the St. John’s the lead.

That jumper would be the last points they would score until a Phil Greene bucket with 41 seconds left in the half. In that nearly eight-minute stretch, Detroit scored 14 unanswered points to take a double-digit lead into the locker room.

St. John’s went on a 9-0 run coming out of the break. Harkless converted a layup while getting fouled and hit the free throw with 17:24 left to cut Detroit’s lead to two. It was the closest St. John’s would come for the rest of the night.

With 7:29 left, Detroit forward Jason Calliste converted a three-point play after being fouled by junior forward God’sgift Achiuwa. On the next possession, guard Ray McCallum drained a jumper to push the lead to nine and put Detroit in control.

The Johnnies now have 12 days off before their next game against Fordham. They’ve played a tough schedule to date, with three games against Top-25 teams, but Lavin thinks the lumps they’ve taken will help the team in the long run.

“We’re testing a young team,” he said when he called into ESPN2’s broadcast in the first half. “You need enough report cards. You go to Kentucky and play in front of 23,000, play Detroit on the road, those are experiences that pay off in the long run … In terms of building the program, that’s where the real growth happens.