It was nearly 70 degrees and fairly calm on Saturday afternoon in the greater New York City area. I'm not a meteorologist, and besides, basketball isn't usually subject to weather, but I write about the climate only to stress the juxtaposition of the elements from where I watched, or at least attempted to watch. The St. John's Red Storm outlasted Youngstown State, 96-87 while I waited out Moth Nature.
Tropical it was not in Northern New York last weekend, as an ice storm covered the region where I live in a you-can't-open-your-door-to-go-outside glass case of frozen water. Trees ripping down power lines like artists removing a sheet and eagerly unveiling their latest creations. Violent and sudden movements causing hours of freezing-boredom. Precisely the reason that a game recap from three days is ago is finally going live online -- power is essential to writing in 2013.
It was all kind of fitting, really. Me covering the Red Storm during an ice storm.
But while it was ice-cold from my vantage point a few days ago, it was seasonally warm off the court in Queens and red-hot on it for St. John's (8-3). That was due mostly to D'Angelo Harrison. The junior guard scored a game-high 29 points, but more importantly, Harrison shot 9 of 15 from the field and drilled 5 of his 6 3-pointers -- the most he's made in a game since last season. In fact, maybe fittingly enough given his hot shooting, Harrison moved into first place in made threes in St. John's program history.
Sure Harrison still shoots too many 3-pointers, but making 152 in under three seasons is remarkable. And the fact he made the record-breaking three just 26 seconds into the game against the Penguins is indicative of Harrison's ability to make a shot as well as his ability to forget about the last miss. Think about this, Harrison made less than 32 percent of his threes last season, but this year he's shot 37 more 3-pointers than the next closest teammate.
Luckily for Steve Lavin and the Red Storm, Harrison has upped his average (35.5%) and has actually hit 7 of his last 9 attempts from deep. Actually, as a team, the Johnnies made 8 of 12 from three. A big reason why St. John's was able to finally pull away from the Penguins (8-6) midway through the second half.
"I thought D’Angelo over the last two games has improved his shot selection. Every shot is on balance with his feet under him and when attracting multiple defenders, and he is now distributing the ball to his teammates. He’s in a real nice flow between his deep game, the mid-range game and getting to the rim where he can finish or get fouled. What I’m most pleased with today is the four assists and no turnovers."
Youngstown State was able to cut its deficit to just four points, 57-53, in the second half, but a 13-6 run followed shortly there later by a 15-8 run by St. John's put the game out of reach. Two spurts added by Harrison's scoring efforts and Orlando Sanchez. The senior forward only scored 9 points, but Sanchez had two emphatic dunks during the momentum changing second half.
Phil Greene IV had himself a game, too. Greene made both of his 3-point attempts, shot 7 of 11 from the field, in scoring 17 points for the Johnnies. Big man JaKarr Sampson and Sir'Dominic Pointer both added 16, with Sampson pulling down 13 big rebounds.
Youngstown State's Kendrick Perry poured in 20 points, with Ryan Weber scoring 16 and DJ Cole putting up 12. Three of the four Penguins who scored in double figures in the loss -- their third loss in the last five games.
Conversely, the Red Storm have won four of their last five games. This despite freshman star guard Rysheed Jordan missing another game. Jordan, who was actually suspended for a game earlier in the season, was home in Philadelphia attending to his ill mother. Without the frosh, Lavin turned to little used Felix Balamou -- who ended up with 2 points in ten minutes of play. The fact that Lavin even thought about Balamou is a little stunning, given the fact that the sophomore guard hadn't even played a single minute this season, but a redshirt year is now out of the question.
"We considered doing it six weeks ago because Felix had been playing so well in practice. His ankle injury has healed quicker than expected and his performance has continued to improve. It became more evident Felix can help us at both ends of the floor."
But regardless of the reasoning, it would stand to reason Jordan will be back with his team sooner than later. And that's big given that the Big East schedule is just around the corner. But first will be one last nonconference game, a return trip to the Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. A game against Columbia.
A contest Lavin hopes to see more of hot shooting out of his players. Harrison adding to his streak from distance, Greene pouring in double figures again, Sampson looking like the Big East Rookie of the Year. They're all pieces to the puzzle for St. John's.
As for me, the only question up where I live: what's next? The freezing rain is done but the cold air has moved in. So all I can do is hope the next game will be less ice storm and more Red Storm. The same goes for Lavin and his team as they all get closer to figurative storm that is Big East play.