The St. John’s men will look to extend their two game win streak today as they travel to the RAC to take on Rutgers in a rematch from December.
In the first matchup the Red Storm blew a four point halftime lead and missed opportunities on late free throws en route to an eventual 58-56 defeat at The Garden.
“I definitely think we should have beat them the first time,” said guard Deangelo Harrison.
Harrison and freshman standout Jakaar Sampson both had an opportunity to convert on a three pointer late in the game but neither could get their shots to fall.
“It’s good that when you lose like that you get another chance to play them again,” Sampson said.
St. John’s seems to be a different, more confident team than when the two teams last met, even though it was only a couple weeks ago. Their recent momentum started with a four point victory against Notre Dame followed by an impressive 71-62 road win at Depaul bringing their conference record to 3-3.
The biggest difference in recent games is transfer point guard Jamaal Branch, who has played in 6 games as a Johnnie now after sitting out a full year as per NCAA transfer rules. Branch had a career high 18 points while directing a productive fast paced offense against the Blue Demons.
“He’s our general out there,” said Sampson.
Recent teams have keyed on purely stopping Deangelo Harrison and because of that Branch has had the opportunity for open shots as well as being able to dish it to others with good looks.
“We’re very cohesive,” said Harrison of the point guard. “I’ve known Jamaal since I was in 8th grade.”
Branch, Harrison and Christian Jones all hail from Texas and are familiar with each other’s playing styles, giving the young team a much needed edge.
One Johnnie who is greatly benefiting from the fast paced attack is Sir’Domonic Pointer, who posted his first career double-double on Saturday with 14 points and 11 boards. Pointer, who is a very good athlete and arguably the team’s best defender, was able to convert on many of his points after St. John’s would beat the press of Depaul and he would go strong to the rim.
If Pointer can establish himself as another reliable offensive threat the team may be headed in a very good direction.
“We’re on a bit of a roll,” said Head Coach Steve Lavin. “We’re young but they seem to be getting the system more as the season progresses so hopefully that continues.”