Obepka and defense lead Red Storm to win over Long Beach State

St. John’s knocked off Long Beach State, 66-49, on Monday night at Carnesecca Arena to improve to 10-1 on the season. Chris Obekpa was the star of the game for the Johnnies as he produced 16 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked 6 shots.

Sir’Dominic Pointer put up another impressive stat line, 11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, while Phil Greene added 16 points. D’Angelo Harrison only finished with 9 points but he did help on the boards, grabbing 10 rebounds.

“What makes this team special was on display yet again,” Steve Lavin said. “We have experience and confidence and we’re seeing a group blossom.”

Despite D’Angelo Harrison’s rare off night and the absence of Rysheed Jordan (stomach virus), the Johnnies were able to get enough offense to overcome Long Beach State and their deceptive zone defenses.

“We are a tough team,” Sir’Dominic Pointer said. “We can play through a lot of different things, between foul trouble, missing people and people going down. We have a lot to offer and we can all do a lot of different things.”

The first half did not consist of solid outside shooting for St. John’s. They shot only 16 percent from beyond the arc but Phil Greene was once again tremendous in the second half. The senior guard knocked down two critical three pointers that put the Johnnies ahead by 8 and that gave them the lead for good.

The most impressive aspect of the game was the Johnnies’ defense. Jamal Branch forced Long Beach State guard, Mike Caffey, into multiple turnovers and forced shots because of constant ball pressure. Pointer and Obekpa also dominated the painted area by blocking a total of nine shots while they also helped win the defensive rebounding battle.

“We were really pleased with our defense,” Steve Lavin said. “Our defense held serve until our offense came to life in the second half. That was a positive”

The 49ers struggled to shoot the ball all night long, 1-for-13 from three in the first half, and Caffey, their leading scorer coming into the game was held to 13 points.

Long Beach State was only able to get to the free throw line six times and they only made 33 percent of those free opportunities.

The Johnnies did not get a lot of bench production without Jordan but their starters are experienced enough to make up for the lack of scoring off the bench.

The 17th ranked Red Storm have another game this week as they take on Tulane at the Barclays Center. If they do win, they will head into Big East play with a record of 11-1.