St. John’s (6-2) looked to extend its winning streak to four as they hosted (4-3) The NJIT Highlanders in a matinee game at Carnesecca Arena.
JaKarr Sampson kept the Red Storm’s blocking trend going early, stuffing the Highlanders on their first offensive opportunity and then taking it the other way to give the Johnnies an early 2-0 lead. The Storm would finish the game with 12 blocks, they are second in the nation in that category.
Sampson built off his early momentum, scoring six of the first ten points for the Storm including a booming dunk. He would eventually pick up his first career double double, with 15 points and 17 rebounds.
Seven minutes into the contest, the game had to be delayed due to issues with the shot clock. At the time of the delay the Johnnies led 10-8. That would be the last lead of the half for St. John’s, as they were never able to get back into an offensive rhythm.
The Highlanders were able to go on a 18-5 run following the delay, hitting four three pointers. D’Angelo Harrison finally hit a three of his own for the Johnnies, their first of the game, giving NJIT a single digit lead of 26-19.
That Harrison triple would be the only one for St. John’s in the half however, the Highlanders had six shots drop from beyond the arc. The Storm also committed 8 turnovers while pulling down just 12 rebounds, compared to 20 for NJIT. At the half St. John’s trailed 35-23.
“I was naturally disappointed that we dug a hole and that we were down 14 in the first half.” Lavin said of his teams first 20 minutes. “Our goal, and it’s been elusive to this point, has been to put together two halves.”
St. John’s came out of halftime strong, going on an 11-0 run to trim the lead to 38-36. Harrison had 7 points for the Storm during that time.
The Johnnies aggressive play was key to cutting the deficit, highlighted by Sir’Dom Pointer diving to poke a lose ball from NJIT and force a backcourt violation.
NJIT finally ended the run with fourteen to go in the half, but the Johnnies came right back to score, tie, and eventually take the lead back at 42-40.
Ryan Woods would hit his fourth three of the game to give the Highlanders the lead back, and the teams continued to trade buckets until Chris Obekpa gave the Storm a 54-49 lead with three minutes to go.
That would be all the scoring St. John’s would need, as they went on to win the game 57-49. The Storm held NJIT to just 14 points in the second half. Harrison would have his seventh 20 point game of the season, as he dropped 21.
“He brings a big spark because he’s our leader.” said JaKarr Sampson of teammate D’Angelo Harrison. “We go as he goes.”
The Johnnies will look to keep their winning streak alive Tuesday night as they head out to San Francisco to face the Dons, a 10 PM Eastern start time.