The switch came on late. Maybe it was the 2PM start, the lack of experience, having Harrison on the bench, or early season jitters. But it took a half for the Red Storm to start imposing their will on Ray McCallum and the Detroit Titans offensively on their way to a 77-74 victory over the visiting Horizon League team with the country watching in the ESPN Tip-Off marathon.
The Titans had St. John's down by as much as 10 points early in the second half, but better defense came to spark the offense. Chris Obekpa started his St. John's career with a school-record 8 blocks and 11 rebounds.
"It was fun," he said after the game, "so I kept on doing it."
The blocks and the team's deflections helped them get favorable looks in transition, drawing 15 more fouls in the second half than the first.
The transition buckets combined with D`Angelo Harrison's ability to help on defense to spark a comeback that took much of the second half to complete. That defensive effort forced two shot clock violations, and intimidated the Titan players at the rim.
"We know how to fight...having our guys step up and make plays was amazing," D`Angelo Harrison told reporters after the game.
Harrison had 22 points, 15 in the second half. In the first half Johnnies were paced by Phil Greene, who ended with a career-high 20, along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Amir Garrett contributed 15 points and 11 total rebounds.
The Titans were fairly steady - missing many shots, but constantly grabbing rebounds away from St. John's longer forwards. The Titans snagged 27% of their own misses - much like what St. John's allowed last season. Forwards Nick Minnerath and Doug Anderson attacked the rim (dunk video) and kept Titan possessions going in the first half. But Minnerath fouled out with five minutes left in the second half; while Anderson was neutralized late.
Ray McCallum led the Detroit Titans with 21 points, but the Titans' first half defensive peskiness gave way to a Red Storm with renewed energy and desire to run sets with multiple players involved.
Despite what was reported earlier, Felix Balamou did not play. Lavin indicated after the game that Balamou would play this season, despite not seeing time, and that God`sGift Achiuwa would redshirt.
St. John's goes to 1-0 on the season (and 1-1 in 24 Hour Tip Off Games). The Charleston Classic comes next, with the first game on Thursday at 5:00 PM Eastern time against the talented host College of Charleston. Detroit falls to 1-1 on the season.
The Rumble will have more analysis and first-hard quotes from this game, along with looks ahead to the Charleston Classic to come.