Steve Lavin may not say it, but the St. John's head coach must be feeling a sense of relief watching D'Angelo Harrison play basketball. That calming sensation of seeing Harrison glide to the rim or zip a pass to a teammate in rhythm was lost last season when the St. John's leading scorer was suspended in February. But luckily for Lavin and the Red Storm, Harrison is back and he is picking up right where he left off.
After tallying 27 points a season opening loss to Wisconsin, the junior guard scored 25 points, while also grabbing five boards and dishing out four assists in St. John's 73-57 win over Wagner. It was Harrison's all around effort that led the charge for the Red Storm (1-1) in an otherwise sluggish game. In fact, the Seahawks were within six points late in the second half, sticking around due in large part to good perimeter defense and to the fact St. John's went ice cold in the second half.
How cold? How about a November night in upstate New York like frigid 0-of-10 from three? Brrr! In the final 20 minutes of the game the Johnnies never warmed up, collectively shooting 34 percent (8-of-23) from the field. A stat that looks bad, but not nearly as putrid as 3-of-10, which is exactly how the Red Storm started its second half shooting. Inability to put ball in basket and a general all around malaise allowed St. John's to get suckered into a rock fight with Wagner.
The Seahawks (1-2) were led by Latif Rivers, who tallied 25 points. It was just the fourth loss for Wagner with Rivers scoring 20 or more points.
And the reason the Seahawks lost was because of Harrison and because of St. John's lock down defense. Wagner's inside game was shut down by bigs Jakarr Sampson, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, Orlando Sanchez, and Chris Obekpa. Wagner forward Mario Moody, 2-of-13 from the field, finished with just five points despite pulling down eight rebounds and having several close looks at the rim. Seahawks starting center Naofall Folahan managed just four points. St. John's also won the rebounding game, 45-34. Wagner's usual path to success is through the paint, but there was just nothing doing in Queens for the Seahawks.
Meanwhile for the Red Storm, Sir'Dominic Pointer scored six of his 10 points after Wagner cut the deficit to single digits. It was Pointer's slam off an offensive rebound that all but sealed the win for St. John's. Its 10th straight home opening victory, helping run its all-time record against the Seahawks to 16-2.
St. John's was also helped by a significant edge at the free throw line, making 29-of-36 attempts to Wagner's six makes in nine attempts. Which, while surely a function of the home town Carnesecca Arena, was also a result of St. John's ability to get to the rim and its ability to prevent Wagner from doing the same. The Seahawks finished 7-of-23 from deep, meaning they've now made just 12-of-58 on the early season.
Yet, the overall lack of production on offense through two games will surely be a point of emphasis for Lavin going forward. That power outage includes freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan, who didn't score in 17 minutes of action against Wagner. Really, the Johnnies seem to rely solely on Harrison to score and hope for Sampson to pick up any slack in the paint. Sure, Pointer has put up decent numbers thus far, but once the schedule beefs up it will take a more complete team effort to get wins.
Up next? The Bucknell Bisons, a team that lost at Stanford by 4 and just beat Penn State, in Happy Valley, 90-80. Certainly no slouch. The Red Storm and the Bison do battle Tuesday at Carnesecca Arena, tip off scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Lavin surely knows Harrison will show up Tuesday, but the question remains: what about the rest of the Red Storm?