Like Wednesday's game against Holy Cross, St. John's started slowly.
Unlike Wednesday's game, Florida Gulf Coast had the cohesion and defensive chops to really make the Red Storm sweat through the first half.
The Eagles led by as much as 13 points in the first half before an end of half burst brought the Johnnies even at 32. From there, Coach Lavin rode a career-high night from Sir`Dominic Pointer - 15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks - an increased defensive effort, and transition scores for a hard-fought 79-68 lead over the Eagles.
Florida Gulf Coast falls to 4-3. St. John's improves to 4-2 on the season.
Pointer's effort earns the headlines, but D`Angelo Harrison scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to help pace the Red Storm. JaKarr Sampson added 12 and 4 rebounds; Phil Greene IV chipped in 10 points, but struggled with 5 turnovers.
Many will blame the somnolent effects of turkey, but the Eagles came to Queens with a game plan that they knew could slow St. John's - defend the deep paint, kindly request the Red Storm take jump shots, bother St. John's drives, and win the battle for long rebounds.
St. John's obliged in the first half. The Eagles grabbed over 41% of their misses (7 rebounds), keeping the Johnnies from running. But Dom Pointer's late second half explosion - 8 points and had three defensive rebounds, while altering FGCU shots - powered a game-tying Red Storm run.
In the second half, Coach Lavin stuck with the hot hand, giving Pointer 28 total minutes of time. Pointer responded with energy, the team responded with increased defensive attention, and the squad made a concerted attempt to hit the offensive boards. The cumulative effect: St. John's grabbed 6 offensive boards, turning their weakness into a strength and attacking the glass with pep. St. John's scored. St. John's left the home court with a win.
FGCU was led by 20 points from Bernard Thompson, who chipped in 5 rebounds and 4 assists; Sherwood Brown added 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. Forward Chase Fieler scored 11 and added 7 rebounds.
Next up for St. John's is South Carolina in the SEC/ Big East challenge on Thursday, November 29th at 7:30 PM. Florida Gulf Coast travels to play Samford next. Check back in the next two days for more takeaways from tonight's St. John's win.
Felix Balamou got the start for St. John's over Amir Garret. Despite 4 fouls, Balamou's energy helped carry the Johnnies through the tough first half, grabbing all three of his rebounds and scoring 4 of his 8 points. Chris Obekpa had 4 blocked shots.
Marc-Antoine Bourgault hit his first shot for St. John's - a three in the first half. He saw 6 minutes.