With a shot (and a performance) that was like a Christmas miracle for the Red Storm, D`Angelo Harrison's 21 points led St. John's (6-5) to a 66-61 victory over Ryan Marks' confident and prepared Texas-Pan American Broncs.
In Amir Garrett's first game as a Johnny, the Red Storm needed a deep three from Harrison and a Maurice Harkless dunk in the final minute of regulation to pull out the win against Texas-Pan American, who fall to 4-10 on the season.
UTPA had given some trouble to major conference foes DePaul, Ohio State, and Northwestern this year with their zones and perimeter shooting.
Tonight, they bothered the Johnnies with disciplined play.
UTPA ran back in transition, cleared the glass (grabbing over 70% of their available defensive rebounds), made the Red Storm play in the half court, and used a combination of drives into the paint and deft passing to find holes in the matchup zone. The Red Storm went into the halftime break down 32-24, having been held scoreless from the field for ten minutes.
D`Angelo Harrison showed signs of an emergence, and God`sgift Achiuwa showed some versatility. Still, the game was at times an ugly watch for the Red Storm fans in the ugly holiday sweaters, not the confidence booster the Storm was hoping for going into Big East conference play.
The game featured the debut of St. John's recruit Amir Garrett, a 6'6" swingman initially declared ineligible by the NCAA in the fall. Garrett's first game was mostly quiet; he scored 3 points (a free throw and a dunk off of a God`sgift Achiuwa pass). But he made a nice defensive stop, causing a ten-second call late in the second half.
D`Angelo Harrison's 21 points came with some confident streaks. He attacked the basket off the dribble and shot well from outside (3-6 from beyond the arc). He led the Red Storm with 5 foul shots attempted. God`sgift Achiuwa added 22, featuring an array of jumpers - including a three-pointer - and some moves off of the dribble. Phil Greene and Moe Harkless each had 4 assists; Gift had 9 rebounds, and Harrison chipped in 7.
Harkless added 9 points for the Red Storm, who start Big East Conference play next Tuesday against Providence at Carnesecca Arena.
UTPA's three-point shooting got them the lead, but their ability to slice into the paint with deft passing and drives into the paint helped them hold the Red Storm at a few possessions' length for most of the game. The Broncs shot 73% inside the arc (8 of 11) in the first half to complement competent perimeter shooting and a frustrating ability to keep the Johnnies away from the rim on drives.
The Red Storm were able to speed up the pace slightly in the second half, scoring 20 points off of UTPA turnovers. Late in the game, the Johnnies used trapping defense and a yeoman's effort on D to come back from deficits as large as 10 points against UTPA.
The Broncs were paced by even scoring from Jared Maree (15 points), Brandon Provost (13 points), Ruben Cabrera (11 points), and Aaron Urbanus (11 points). Provost, Urbanus, and Maree combined for 9 of the Broncs' 10 perimeter makes. Nick Weiermiller had 9 assists.
The Broncs return to Texas to face the University of Texas at Arlington on December 29th.