It took longer than anticipated, but the St. John's Red Storm finally pulled away to beat Longwood, 65-47 Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena.That's because, despite being heavily favored and much more experienced, those undermanned Lancers actually jumped out to a 7-0 lead. And while the Red Storm actually led at the break, the four point lead was by no means insurmountable.
For the fifth time in as many games, St. John's (4-1) struggled to find any rhythm on offense. The Red Storm shot an ice cold 37.3 percent from the field, making just three of their 19 three-point attempts. This against a team in Longwood that had one of its two wins against something, or maybe someone, called "Mars Hill."
Actually, the Lancers (2-4) were within in seven points with less than nine minutes to play in the second half. That was due in large part to the play of junior forward Jeylani Dublin. Dublin led Longwood with 16 points and even swatted four Red Storm shot attempts. Lucas Woodhouse contributed 10 points for the Lancers.
But while D'Angelo Harrison scored a game-high 18 points for St. John's, making just 4-of-17 attempts from the field, it was the Johnnies defense that helped blow this game open. St. John's held the Lancers to just under 34 percent shooting from the field. And if you take away Dublin's 7-of-12 shooting, Longwood was an anemic 12-of-44 from the field, 2-of-8 from distance.
St. John's has become known for erratic offensive play and, just the same, its become something of a lock-down defensive team, too. Meaning coach Steve Lavin still isn't exactly sure of what he has on his hands.
"Clearly, it was a disjointed game. I thought there were some bright spots defensively with the 15 blocks, so there were some positives on that side of the ball. Offensively we never found a rhythm. It’s good when you win a game when you’re not playing your best."
Yet, it was that defense that also led to St. John's tying a school record, as the Red Storm recorded 15 blocked shots. With sophomore center Chris Obekpa leading the way with eight swats of his own. Obekpa also scored six points and pulled down eight rebounds in the win.
Phil Greene IV cooled off a bit, after leading St. John's in scoring the last two games, still the junior managed to tally eight points, while Sir' Dominic Pointer contributed 11. Big man JaKarr Sampson was a force in the paint against the undersized Lancers, grabbing a season-high 11 rebounds.
The other important note for St. John's in what was an otherwise ho-hum win was the return of freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan. The highly touted frosh was suspended for St. John's win over Monmouth for violating team rules. But Jordan returned against Longwood, scoring eight points and dishing out four assists in 17 minutes of action.
While it took longer than expected to finally put the game away, St. John's improves to 23-4 at home in November under Coach Lavin. Up next will be Penn State Friday night in the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn.