A week after losing by 11 to Wisconsin in Sioux Falls, St. John’s picked up its first win of the 2013-14 season. They defeated Wagner 73-57 to win their home opener at Carnesecca Arena. It marked the 10th straight home opening victory.
D’Angelo Harrison led the Johnnies with 25 points. Fourteen came in a strong first half that saw the Red Storm take a 36-22 lead into intermission. For the most part, he stayed under control shooting 7 for 14 from the field while going a perfect 11 for 11 at the line. He also grabbed five rebounds and dropped four dimes. Harrison limited his turnovers to two.
Wagner hung around on the strength of three-point shooting from Latif Rivers and Jay Harris. Each picked it up in the second half for the Seahawks. Rivers paced the Staten Island NEC school with 18 and Harris had 14. Point guard Kenneth Ortiz added 10 and five assists. Despite a lack of athleticism and size, they posed a good challenge for St. John’s. A few times, they cut a double digit deficit to single digits including a 7-0 run that finished with a Mario Moody jam off an alley oop.
Displeased with his team’s lethargic start to the second half, Steve Lavin called for time. They responded to adversity with timely buckets and aggressive defense that forced Wagner into 15 turnovers. Harrison had help from sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson. Last year’s top Big East rookie chipped in with 13 and seven boards. That included four field goals and 5 of 7 free throws. Sir ‘Dominic Pointer was the third scorer into double digits adding 10. Among the highlights were two monstrous slams off put backs. He ran the floor well following up strong on the offensive glass.
Big shot blocker Chris Obekpa swatted four shots, grabbed eight rebounds and had two points. St. John’s held a 45-34 edge on the glass. Newcomer Orlando Sanchez didn’t shoot well misfiring on five of six field goals but still chipped in eight (6-6 FT’s) and eight boards. Guard Jamal Branch finished with eight. Phil Greene IV added five. Defensive pest God’sgift Achiuwa came off the bench for two and three rebounds.
Overall, it was a decent performance. There were some shaky moments where they forced the issue. A continued concern is the lack of a perimeter threat. The Johnnies were 0 for 10 from downtown. It’s an area that must change. Max Hooper barely got off the bench. He’s the best shooter they have. Harrison was 0 for 4 from three and freshman Rysheed Jordan struggled missing all seven field goals including twice from beyond the arc. Hopefully, he’ll settle down.
St. John’s next plays against Bucknell this Tuesday, Nov. 19. That should be a good early test against a proven tournament team from the Patriot League. Maybe we’ll go.