Holdin’ On In Chi-Town

The St. John’s men’s basketball team held off another late rally, this time from DePaul, as they defeated the Blue Demons 71-62 at Allstate Arena in Rosemmont, Ill.

The Red Storm (11-7, 3-3) had built a 17-point lead that began to dwindle down the stretch, getting to within three points at the 2:24 mark. While the late collapse was all too familiar for the Johnnies, the act that saved them was not, as they hit six free throws in the closing minutes to earn the win.

“We played really well in stretches and then fell apart and played poorly in others,” head coach Steve Lavin said. “Part of that is because DePaul continues to fight and scratch and claw and they’re going to go on runs.”

Stretches like that are nothing new for the Red Storm, who feature a roster almost entirely made up of freshmen and sophomores. The team lost a similar 17-point lead against UNC-Asheville in mid-December on their home court to end
non-conference play.

“Naturally, I would have liked to see the 17 point lead be salted away for a 20, 25 point victory,” Lavin said. “But because DePaul continued to fight, they were opportunistic, and got some steals, got some turnovers, some stops, made some big shots, and next thing you know it’s a 3-point game, a one possession basketball game.”

Jamal Branch led the team with a career-high 18 points. This was only his sixth contest after a year on the sidelines due to transfer regulations. Since his arrival on the court, he has shown a propensity to run an offense that has rarely been seen on the Red Storm this season.

“Branch is our most natural playmaker and ball handler,” Lavin said. “So we tried to give him some space with that high ball screen, and, similar to an option quarterback in football, let him make his reads.”

Sophomore guard D’Angelo Harrison broke out of a scoring drought and contributed 15 points, while sophomore Sir’Dominic Pointer racked up his first career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

“Usually I don’t take those shots, but coach Lavin says that I’m hurting the team by not shooting the ball,” Pointer said.

While the Johnnies are known more for their athleticism than for their long-range shooting, the team’s lack of three-pointers was still abnormal. St. John’s became the first Big East team in three seasons to fail to score a single three-point basket.

“They didn’t really stop our attack game tonight, so we didn’t need to
shoot threes,” Pointer said.