Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
With their fifth-straight win, St. John's is now in sole possession of third place in the Big East with a road trip to Georgetown on Saturday.
It took five extra minutes, some fortunate calls, and the nail-biting of fans as St. John's missed late free throws, but Sir`Dominic Pointer (11 points/ 12 rebounds/ 2 blocks/ 1 steal) and the Johnnies pulled out their fifth straight win, a 79-74 overtime squeaker at Carnesecca Arena in Queens over the DePaul Blue Demons.
The Red Storm are 14-7, 6-3 in the Big East and in sole possession of third place in the Big East with the hard half of the schedule looming. The team finishes their season series with DePaul at 2-0 - and are dreaming of an NCAA Tournament berth with Georgetown looming on Saturday afternoon, a rematch of the team's most sluggish loss.
In a game that didn't have a great flow, the Johnnies watched the DePaul Blue Demons whittle a 9 point lead to a tie late in the second half with switching defenses and quickness.
"I was concerned with our transition D," Lavin said after the game. "We're not tortoises, but those guys are quicker than us."
While struggling to maintain the lead, the Red Storm's security blanket, late game hero D`Angelo Harrison (17 points/ 3 assists), fouled out with 3.46 left - for the first time this season.
"You're never supposed to foul a jump shooter," Harrison said postgame, "it's a cardinal sin. I did it twice."
What would the Johnnies be made of without their leader in a tightening game? Who would step to the forefront?
Sir`Dominic Pointer's energy, apparently.
With just over 2:00 left, Pointer saved a rough possession (an off balance jumper by Phil Greene IV, 13 points) with an offensive rebound, a missed shot... and ANOTHER offensive rebound and a dunk to tie the game. "Cost Co", as coach Lavin called the do-it-all wing before the game, because he has a lot of everything in different, ah, aisles. (#Lavinism)
On a controversial (but likely correct) call, Pointer ended regular time by grabbing a loose ball and hurtling a chest pass to Sampson, who was fouled - but the foul was called after the buzzer had sounded and the clock went to zeroes.
In extra time, the Johnnies woke the crowd with a vicious Jakarr Sampson (13 points/ 8 rebounds/ 1 block) block of a Charles McKinney layup attempt; and the rest of extra time would be mostly defensive as well. St. John's held the Demons to a layup and three made free throws, while putting the game away with 10 points from Pointer and Sampson.
With just over a minute left in the game and the Johnnies clinging to the lead, Pointer took a hard foul on a fast-break dunk attempt after a turnover by DePaul, earning the intentional foul. The 62% free throw shooter calmly canned two free throws with no one at the line to bring the lead comfortably to three.
"What we're seeing is the development of Branch and Pointer," Coach Lavin said. "But we're not very good right now."
Oliver Purnell's team generated a chaos in Carnesecca - it was like watching a superball bounce around a small room with a lot of furniture. But that chaos forced all of one turnover by St. John's - who found their way through the extended, high pressure despite a solid effort by the Blue Demons.
"That was the hardest any team has played us, just in terms of sheer effort," Lavin mused. "They were in another stratosphere."
DePaul's 18 turnovers and 6/22 three-point shooting doomed them, as did their ability to keep an offensively struggling Red Storm team off the glass. The Johnnies enjoyed 11 of their 15 offensive rebounds in the second half, and shot 6/12 from beyond the arc in the game.
Brandon Young's 21 points and 5 assists led the Blue Demons, who fall to 1-6 in the Big East and 10-10 overall. Moses Morgan dropped 11 of his 13 in the first half for the Blue Demons, who trailed 38-31 at the half. Jamee Crockett, who dunked on the Storm in Chicago, added 14 points and 5 rebounds. Star Cleveland Melvin was held to 10 points on 2/11 shooting, but added 13 rebounds. Donnavan Kirk had 6 points/ 6 rebounds/ 5 blocks.
"Obviously, you'd like to see us get a win," Purnell mentioned afterwards. "There's no question about it, St. John's really defended the rim pretty well. As well as we rebounded, we didn't come up with the critical rebounds we needed in overtime."
Steve Lavin called a timeout in the first minute after the Johnnies allowed three offensive rebounds in one possession to remind the Storm about the need to bang hard on the boards against a desperate Blue Demon team.
Marc-Antoine Bourgault with his first points since UNC-Asheville, a corner three at the 7.33 mark. He logged a DNP in the last game.
St. John's has topped last year's win total of 13, and matches the in-conference win total of last year's team.