St. John's from the start played Saturday's game against Dartmouth like a team who desperately needed a win and prove to themselves they could still earn victories.
The Johnnies played aggressive defense, got to the free throw line early and often, and started the second half on a big run after a Dartmouth surge heading into halftime. That all led to a 69-55 win at Carnesecca Arena to end a five-game losing streak.
Phil Greene IV, who had a big game against Providence last time out, led St. John's with 16 points, including a career-high four 3-pointers. JaKarr Sampson, who started slow, came on in the second half and finished with 13 points.
The Red Storm improve to 10-8 on the season. After the three-game week, the Johnnies are off until Thursday Jan. 23, where they welcome Seton Hall - who just dispatched Georgetown at the Verizon Center - to Madison Square Garden.
"[This was] a positive step to get a win," head coach Steve Lavin said after the game. "Now our intention is to get momentum going into Seton Hall."
The win came as a relief as well to some of the players, some of which aren't accustomed to being in this situation.
"We come from places where we're not used to losing," Sampson said. "Losing five straight is always hard. You get in a dark place."
St. John's offensive was in a dark place in this win and nowhere to be found, but a solid defensive effort is what made the difference. That was especially the case to begin the second half while the Red Storm went on a 10-4 run in the first eight minutes.
The Johnnies forced Dartmouth into 15 turnovers and also blocked 11 shots.
Both teams struggled from the field. St. John's shot 39.3% from the field, but were 8-for-16 from beyond the arc.
Harrison, Greene, and Orlando Sanchez made the difference in the first half. The trio combined to score 26 of the Johnnies’ 38 first-half points. Harrison and Sanchez each had two blocks.
The Johnnies were aggressive getting to the rim in the first half, and that helped send them to the free throw line 16 times. St. John’s converted 14 attempts. Overall, they were 17-for-22 (77.3%) from the charity stripe.
Dartmouth used the 3-pointer to its advantage to keep pace with St. John’s in the first half. The Big Green shot 6-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes. Malik Gill, who is from New Rochelle, and Alex Mitola each made two 3-pointers in the first half.
Mitola hit a 3 at the buzzer to get Dartmouth within four points, 38-34, to end the first half.
Overall, Dartmouth shot 34.5% from the field.
St. John's effort was visible from the start. They weren't taking Dartmouth lightly and a sense of urgency was at an all-time high. Though he only finished with two assists and encountered early foul trouble, Rysheed Jordan started the game and played point guard in manner that help the team's early aggressiveness. If he can just stay out of foul trouble, his presence on the floor could have more impact over the course of a game.
Dartmouth used 13 players in the game.
Sanchez finished the game with four blocks. Chris Obekpa, who fouled out of the game, finished with two blocks. Six different Johnnies had blocks in this game.
St. John's finished with eight steals.