The main concern as St. John's welcomed San Francisco to Queens was whether the Red Storm would experience a letdown after Sunday's emotional, hard-fought loss to Syracuse.
Steve Lavin's Johnnies (7-3) erased those thoughts quickly on Wednesday, instead using the confidence they gained in its last game to bury San Francisco (6-5), 81-57, in front of 4,282 at Carnesecca Arena. After the Dons defeated the Red Storm handily last season out west, the Johnnies returned the favor on their own home floor.
D`Angelo Harrison once again led the way for St. John's, scoring 18 points on 5-8 shooting. JaKarr Sampson contributed 14 points, while Rysheed Jordan (11 points) and Orlando Sanchez (10) helped the Johnnies complete a solid offensive outing.
"Coach gave us a great talk before the game. As a group, we said that [slow starts] can't happen anymore," Harrison said. "We came out with great energy."
After his breakout performance against Syracuse on Sunday, Rysheed Jordan came out aggressively against San Francisco. He scored four points in the first few possessions, seeking opportunities when available.
St. John's jumped out to an 8-point lead midway through the first half, yet turnovers and relaxed perimeter defense allowed San Francisco to stay within striking distance.
Yet the Johnnies stabilized offensively and held the lead throughout almost the entirety of the first half, getting notable production from its front line of Chris Obekpa, Orlando Sanchez and even God`sgift Achiuwa off the bench. St. John's led the Dons by 12 points, 43-31, at halftime.
Out of the locker room, the Red Storm took complete control of the game, extending its lead to 20 before the 16:00 mark of the second half.
Much in the way he did during the Johnnies' run to climb back during the second half against Syracuse on Sunday, Jordan took control of the Red Storm's offensive efforts early in the second frame on Wednesday. Driving to the bucket or causing discomfort on the defensive side, the freshman point guard is beginning to show how essential he may be to the Storm's success this season. He finished the game with 11 points, only two shy of his career high.
"[Rysheed] is catching up now after starting slow," Obekpa said. "Right now, especially after the Syracuse game, he's gelling with the team."
"Rysheed isn't thinking anymore. All he is thinking now is 'attack,'" Harrison said.
Behind Jordan and a balanced attack that culminated with four players in double figures, St. John's kept rolling to its seventh victory of the season. The Red Storm continued its solid offensive play, which they have maintained since the second half against Georgia Tech, shooting 50% (28-56) from the field.
St. John's was simply too much for the Dons inside the paint, outscoring San Francisco in the interior which included a dominating advantage in second chance opportunities. The Red Storm also controlled the boards 34-24.
Mark Tollefson scored 14 points, while Chris Adams and Kruize Pinkins joined in double figures for the Dons in the losing effort.
Harrison converted a three-pointer at the 6:07 mark of the first half, matching the St. John's all-time record (151) previously held by Willie Shaw. He will have an opportunity to break that record during the team's next game on Saturday.. Harrison, who became a 1,000-point scorer in the later stages of his sophomore season a year ago, may have plenty of St. John's basketball records left to contend.
"If it were up to me, I'd shoot all threes. But teams take that away [from me]," Harrison mentioned. "St. John's has a lot of great history. It's a great honor to be just one of the many great players who have played here."
"Once we lost the group with Kennedy and Hardy, to be able to have a scorer like Harrison gives us a margin for error," Lavin said. "I think he scored 48 or 54 in the first game I saw him play. He reminded me of the Arizona guards we faced when I was at UCLA. As D'Angelo continues to round out his game through play-making, that is how he will take his game and our team to the next level."
The Red Storm have kicked things into another gear in its last four games, perhaps a turning point in its much anticipated season.
St. John's will be back in action on Saturday afternoon (2 pm) when the Storm welcomes Youngstown State to Carnesecca Arena.