The Champs’ Frontier

Early on in the Great Alaska Shootout championship game and before the opening tip, it looked as though Arizona State was going to leave St. John’s in the dust on their way to the trophy. The Red Storm had other ideas, instead choosing to prove why games aren’t played on paper and aren’t over until the final buzzer.

Riding the momentum forged by their defense en route to nine second-half steals, the Johnnies picked up their first regular season tournament win since the 2005 Holiday Festival with a 67-58 win over the Sun Devils, sending ASU back to the valley of the sun empty-handed after Arizona State jumped out to a 30-20 halftime lead. After shooting just 26% from the field in the opening stanza, the Johnnies came out firing over the final twenty minutes, outscoring ASU 47-28.

Justin Brownlee, who led St. John’s (4-1) with 20 points, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. D.J. Kennedy was also named to the all-tournament team despite two quiet outings against Arizona State and Drake. Dwight Hardy received the same honors after scoring all of his 14 points in the second half, making up for an 0-for-7 start. After not having their most effective outings since making the cross-country trip, Paris Horne and Malik Stith continued their solid and underrated play, (11 and 10 points, respectively) helping to not only tie the game midway through the second half, but also giving the Red Storm a lead it would never relinquish. Ty Abbott paced the runner-up Sun Devils and all scorers with 22 points, and for a while it seemed as though he would be the latest shooter to render Steve Lavin’s zone defense a non-factor in much the same way Clint Steindl did for St. Mary’s in the Red Storm’s season opener.

Looking back, the Johnnies executed on the keys to victory that were outlined earlier today. They were able to shoot in the second half after not getting baskets to fall in the early going, and the energy level over the game’s final minutes reached crescendos never seen under Norm Roberts as St. John’s played aggressive by forcing turnovers and hard fouls.

St. John’s gets a few days to rest after traveling back to New York as their next game is Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena against Staten Island invaders Wagner College and first-year head coach Danny Hurley. Tipoff is slated for 7pm, and since the game is not televised, you can listen to the free online stream of WSJU Radio with Johnny Jungle’s own Dan Martin and Tim Dimas on the call.