Thar they go

Johnnies almost walk plank against Pirates but come away with first Big East win

St. John’s made Thursday night at Carnesecca much tougher than it had to be. It was a game that could have been a blow out with a 17 point lead, but the Red Storm struggled down the stretch to just hold on 77-76.

The Red Storm (11-8, 1-5 Big East) were able to get their first conference victory as they took on the Seton Hall Pirates (11-8, 2-4 Big East) at Carnesecca Arena on Thursday night.

“We needed that win to gain momentum with the next two away games we have,” Jamal Branch said. “We needed this win and hopefully it will get us over the hump.”

“It definitely feels good. My teammates and I are hyped and excited. It feels good to get the monkey off our back”, sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson said. “It’s not fun being last place in the Big East and losing five straight BIG EAST games.”

St. John’s had a game unlike any they have had in recent weeks. The offense was the reason for their victory versus Seton Hall. The Red Storm had five players in double figures on the night.  Sampson, Orlando Sanchez, and D’Angelo Harrison each had 16 points, Jamal Branch had 11 points, and Sir Dominic Pointer had 10 points. The team shot 29-for 57 (50.9 percent) from the field on the night.

“We had five people in double figures and that’s big”, Sampson said. “Whenever OrlandoSanchez plays well, we are a really good team. When we get him clicking the way he was, we’re hard to stop.”

St. John’s got off to a slow start versus the Pirates, trailing 13-3 with 15:54 remaining in the first half. But the Red Storm were able to shake off the rough start behind 11 first half-points from Orlando Sanchez while forcing 15 turnovers in the half.  From the 15:54 mark on the Red Storm went on a 32-16 run to end the half to take the lead over Seton Hall 35-29.

The second half was started fast by St. John’s as they got their lead to as much as 17 points at the 9:00 mark.  But Seton Hall gradually chipped away at the Red Storm’s lead in the remaining nine minutes. Seton Hall cut the deficit to 77-76 with four seconds remaining.

The inbound pass was in the hands of Sir Dominic Pointer, he heaved the ball down the court and almost threw it out of bounds but Orlando Sanchez tipped the ball forcing the Pirates to take the ball out form the St. John’s Basket. Pointer was able to tip the ball away from a Seton Hall player, saving the game. It was a nail bitter at Carnesecca Arena, but the Red Storm were able to hold off the Pirates.

“I was throwing the ball long.  We didn’t have any timeouts and nobody was open”, Pointer said. ”So I was thinking just lob the ball and hope somebody will grab it or we will play good defense and the ball will get hit out.  Luckily, it got hit out of bounds.”

St. John’s goes on a two game Big East road trip facing off against Butler on Jan. 25 and Creighton on Jan. 28.

“It’ll be tough, but as long as we execute and play great defense, Creighton will not shoot like they did against Villanova”, said Branch.

“This league is so difficult because no one is going to give you a break”, said head coach Steve Lavin. “It’s good to win because our kids will have the wind in their sails as we move forward going on the road. These are two of the toughest places [Butler and Creighton] to play in America.”