Sir’Dom Leads Johnnies Past Rutgers

The St. John’s men’s basketball team traveled to New Jersey on Wednesday and defeated Rutgers 72-60, exacting revenge after a two-point Jan. 9 loss to their Big East rival. The win was their third straight conference victory.

“I think our aggressiveness and our defense fueled our offense,” said St. John’s (12-7, 4-3) head coach Steve Lavin. “The kids understand more now that if you play defense, that’s going to fuel and propel your offense, and I thought tonight was another example of that.”

Sophomore forward Sir’Dominic Pointer filled out the stat sheet with 13 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and six steals, giving the Johnnies a little bit of everything as he neared a quadruple-double.

“Dom Pointer’s line tonight is one of the more unusual and exceptional lines of any player I’ve ever coached in my career,” Lavin said. “I think he’s the Tasmanian Devil, the straw that stirs the drink, or the energizer for our team. He’s been the difference in the last couple weeks for St. John’s.”

The Red Storm shot just 35 percent in the first half, but Pointer’s five steals in the period helped the team score in transition, with 13 of their 29 points coming as a result of Rutgers turnovers.

“His energy was infectious to that team,” said Rutgers (12-6, 3-4) head coach Mike Rice. “He’s done such a tremendous job of just making winning plays, and that’s a big part of the game that we have to embrace and do a better job at.”

Coming off a double-double in a road win against DePaul, the Johnnies are seeing growth from Pointer and are glad at how it correlates to victories.

“I’m just maturing as a basketball player,” Pointer said. “I’ve been working on my game with the coaches, and they’re telling me that they need me down the stretch just to shoot the ball a little bit more.”

Sophomore guard D’Angelo Harrison appeared to be back on track from totaling just 30 points in St. John’s last three games, and contributed 20 points on Wednesday, while freshman forward Jakarr Sampson added 21 points and grabbed seven boards. Both players expressed regret over losing to Rutgers two weeks ago.

“We just knew we had to take care of business today and we knew we should’ve won the last game,” Sampson said. “And that’s what we did: we took care of business.”

The Johnnies collectively shut down Rutgers guard Eli Carter, who shot just 1-14, and was 0-10 inside the arc.

“(Carter) is a great player, so just putting pressure on him, nothing easy, he got a lot of easy looks last game,” Harrison said. “I don’t think he had one wide open look, if he did it was a mistake, but we closed out great.”

Because of the loss to the Scarlet Knights earlier in the month, St. John’s gave Rutgers a different look.

“They’re different because of their spacing,” Rice said. “[Lavin] has a better offensive team on the floor, and they bring Obekpa off the bench who changes some things. They’re more balanced and they put you in situations that are difficult.”

The Red Storm will look to continue their winning stream in an upcoming two-game home stand, facing Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, and DePaul at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday.