St. John's pulled out the win over Bucknell, and the defensive second half was the story. Some point out the flaws in the team; Steve Lavin sees a team that will grow by January and February and hit its stride.
Greene led the way for the Johnnies with 16 points, 12 of which came during St. John's key run during the second half. Steve Lavin's squad, who has experienced well-documented struggles shooting from the perimeter thus far this season, finally overtook Bucknell's long-enduring lead when Greene sank two from beyond the arc midway through the second frame.
"We needed it a lot. We got some defensive stops, which made it much easier for us offensively," Greene mentioned. "I was playing aggressively. [Bucknell] was giving us a lot of shots, so we had to make them."
Daily Item, Sunbury, PA // Men's basketball: Bucknell lose road game to St. John's
Bucknell took a 3-point lead into the half, but it wouldn't hold on as the Bison lost their second game of the season to St. John's to drop to .500 on the year with the 67-63 loss.
Bucknell (2-2) led 35-32 at the half.
But it was a 35-point second half by the Red Storm (2-1) that would prove to be the difference, as St. John's held Bucknell to 28 second-half points.
"We tried to dare them to shoot mid-range jumpers," said Bucknell's Cameron Ayers, who had a career-high 25 points. "they got hot in the second half. ... We knew they were going to block shots and they did."
Brian Fitzpatrick scored down low with 10 minutes left to give Bucknell a 51-48 lead but the Red Storm went on a 12-0 run that was capped by a desperation jumper at the shot clock buzzer by JaKarr Sampson with 8:22 to play and Bucknell wasn't able to play from behind, closing within four points three times.
"The zone defense was the difference. It took them out of their rhythm and set up the blocks because it kept our bigs at home," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "Offensively there was progress with some timely shots, especially Phil, and we had just enough down the stretch, making free throws to salt the win away."
Phil Greene found his stroke and assumed the scoring load, totaling 12 points in a 25-8 run that put the Johnnies up to stay, 59-51. In that run, Obekpa had three blocks, Orlando Sanchez one block, Greene two steals and Harrison one steal. And the Red Storm scored after six of those seven defensive plays.
"This is a game we lose the last two years," Red Storm coach Steve Lavin said. "This group is starting to figure it out."
Said Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen: "We couldn’t hold St. John’s off there in the middle of the second half. We struggled to score when they stepped the pressure up. We missed 30 shots (in the game) and they had 13 blocks, so for all intents and purposes half our misses were blocked shots."
The excitement level of the St. John's home crowd became a crescendo with each shot Chris Obekpa and Orlando Sanchez rejected.
It reached a fever pitch when the 6-9 Obekpa swatted consecutive attempts under the basket -- and sent the second into the crowd with 43 seconds left -- helping the Red Storm secure a 67-63 win over Bucknell Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena.
"I think Chris is the best shot-blocker in the country," teammate Sir'Dominic Pointer said of the sophomore, who averaged four blocks last season. "It energizes the team and we get hyped."
NY Post // Late push drives St. John’s past Bucknell
All Tuesday night, St. John’s bounced back and forth, showing just how far it can go and then displaying just how far it still has to go.
But if the Red Storm’s talent can overcome their inconsistency and their final 15 minutes against Bucknell are any indication of how they’ll look in the Big East, they could be ready to match the hype.
College Basketball Talk// St. John’s "problem solves" in comeback win over Bucknell
The glaring issue for St. John’s — and this is no mystery — is the inability to shoot even a respectable percentage from the perimeter....
There is no doubting how talented D’Angelo Harrison, Jakarr Sampson, and Rysheed Jordan are — especially in transition — but not having any legitimate threats from the outside makes them extremely one-dimensional.
When playing against a team like Bucknell, who rarely gambles on defense on the perimeter — they turned their opponent over the least amount in the country last season, yet still had a high defensive efficiency — the opposition is mighty content ensuring St. John’s stays out of the lane and beats them from the outside.
"You can see some glimpses of coming attractions and what can be come February," Lavin said.
"I do think by February we could be a team that finds its stride, could be a team that’s a dangerous opponent."
...."Each day and each game we’re going to get a lot better so by January and February and come March," Phil Greene IV said, "we’ll be a dangerous team to play."
Do you think St. John's will continue to be one-dimensional? And for how long? What needs to change?