The St. John’s men’s basketball team defeated Longwood 65-47 at Carnesecca Arena Tuesday, but it was hardly a feel-good win for the 3,531 fans in attendance.
The Lancers (2-4) opened the game with a 7-0 run, but the Red Storm (4-1) answered with a 9-2 run to even the score. After a back-and-forth first half, the Johnnies went into halftime up 27-23.
But despite holding a lead, which was never lost and ballooned to double digits with more than halfway to go in the second half, St. John’s shot 37.5 percent from the field (33.3 in the first half) and 15.8 percent from three.
“I just think we started off bad,” junior forward Sir’Dominic Pointer said. “This was one of those games where we couldn’t put the ball in the basket, so we had to play good defense tonight.”
Junior guard D’Angelo Harrison led St. John’s with 18 points, though he went 6-19 from the field. Sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson, who played 30 minutes, failed to score a point until the 7:49 mark in the second half. He finished with three points, but had 11 rebounds.
“Offensively, we never found a rhythm or flow, but it’s good when you can win a game when you’re not playing your best and some of your top performers can’t find the hot hand,” head coach Steve Lavin said. “Really no one played well on the offensive end of the floor for us and yet we still won the game.”
Jeylani Dublin led the Lancers with 16 points. Lucas Woodhouse and Karl Ziegler both had 10.
Sophomore center Chris Obekpa finished with six points, eight rebounds and six blocks – the latter of which helped tie the Johnnies’ single-game record of 15 blocks set three times within the last year.
“I don’t think either coach or team could be happy with the offensive end of the floor,” Lavin said. “I thought there were some bright spots defensively with the 15 blocks and holding them the 25 percent from the 3-point line and 33 percent from the field.”
Freshman guard Rysheed Jordan, who served a one-game suspension Friday for a violation of team rules, totaled eight points and four assists in 17 minutes off the bench. He had started the team’s first three games prior to the suspension.
“You can’t keep a player down too long,” Sampson said referring to Jordan’s contribution. “He’s a really good player, he’s a really good freshman for us. He works hard every day, it’s just getting used to the game, getting used to the pace of the game.”
The lack of 3-pointers made has been a recurring theme for the Red Storm through their first five games.
“Those things we can work on,” Harrison said. “It just wasn’t falling tonight … we managed to pull out a win and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.”
Lavin said the lack of made shots from deep was due to a myriad of reasons ranging from an emphasis on other in-game execution to the timing. At the end of the day, he says it comes down to execution and winning games.
“That’s a good sign as a coach when you have a team that can’t throw the ball in the ocean and you’re still winning games because you know it’s a matter of time with the pieces we have we’ll get better offensively,” Lavin said.
While the players attributed the last few contests that have been close at times to teams playing “like its their super bowl,” Lavin chalked it up to a chance to move forward early in the year.
“Every November and December, we scratch our head over these types of scores and then what you do is you go back to work,” Lavin said.
“And when you make progress you have the chance to do something special come March, he added. “And if you don’t make progress, you don’t and that’s the beauty of the NCAA tournament.