Johnnies complete comeback vs. Georgia Tech

BROOKLYN – For the second time in the span of 16 hours, the St. John’s men’s basketball team found itself in a 15-point deficit, only this time surviving 68-59 over Georgia Tech in the consolation game of the Barclay’s Center Classic Saturday.

Junior guard D’Angelo Harrison led the way for the Red Storm (5-2) with 21 points and was the catalyst for the team when they went on a 23-5 run to erase the deficit. Harrison went 12-13 from the charity stripe to push the Johnnies over the top.

“This team has a way of fighting back, but we just have to get it together in the beginning,” Harrison said. “We can’t get down 15 points. If we take care of that then it’s a whole other kind of ball game and we don’t have to fight all the way back. We could just take the lead earlier and sustain the lead.”

Despite the loss, head coach Steve Lavin felt like Friday night’s loss to Penn State was where his team played better as opposed to Saturday afternoon’s win over Georgia Tech (5-3). Nonetheless, he says he saw some maturation in his crew.

“I thought the kids played with purpose at the end of the first half and throughout the second half,” Lavin said of his team who had to climb over the hill again. “We played as a cohesive bunch and I think these last two games were good for us. Sometimes you don’t play well and win, and sometimes you play great and lose. It seems counter-intuitive, somewhat like life. I think in both of these games, the loss and the win, our team grew up a bit.”

The case all year for St. John’s has been the generation of offense from their defense and that was the name of the game today. The Red Storm registered 20 points off 20 Georgia Tech turnovers, most of the points coming during that run. The Red Storm didn’t allow any Georgia Tech players to reach double figures. Sophomore center Chris Obekpa continued to dominate on the defensive side. One night after notching seven blocks, Obekpa clogged the paint with six blocks.

“We know that we can pressure the ball because we know we have Chris [Obekpa],” Harrison said of the nation’s leading shot blocker. “We rely on him a little too much, but he’s always going to do his thing. You know you can press them when you have a guy in the back that can block shots even JaKarr [Sampson] and Orlando [Sanchez]. It helps the guards pick up and pressure the ball more.”

Although the Johnnies continue to dig their ways out of holes, Lavin said he understands that games like this can be trouble when conference play begins.

“When you get off to a big lead and you’re up 15-nothing the concern is giving those leads up,” he said. “If we get a lead I’m concerned about sustaining the lead and when we fall behind I’m concerned about that pattern of falling behind.”