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St. John's vs. Youngstown St. final score: Harrison makes history, Johnnies win 96-87

With a lot going on, St. John's stays focused and beats Youngstown St. 96-87.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

It was "Ugly Sweater Day" at Carnesecca Arena when St. John's took on Youngstown State, but that was not the big story during the game on Saturday afternoon.  There was a taste of sadness, an activation, competition and a memorable moment for a certain player.

St. John's (8-3) defeated the Youngstown State Penguins (8-6), 96-87, in a high-scoring battle at Carnesecca Arena on Saturday.  Days before Christmas, there was lots of holiday cheer in Queens as the Red Storm faithful watched their Johnnies grab their eighth win of the season.

The Red Storm were paced by junior guard D`Angelo Harrison, who scored a season high 29 points which included an efficient 5-6 showing from beyond the arc.  St. John's put three others in double figures: JaKarr Sampson scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Phil Greene IV exploded for 17 points and Sir`Dominic Pointer dazzled the crowd with electric on-ball defense and 16 points of his own.

As some fans were still finding their seats in Carnesecca Arena,  Harrison put his name in the St. John's record books, breaking Willie Shaw's three point field goals made record.

Harrison stated he said he was feeling good early during warm-ups and simply "wanted to get it done quickly." Harrison, who was suspended at the end of last year, thanked his coach and his players for sticking with him.

"It feels great. I’m excited I got it but I think that’s a beatable record. I think someone else is going to get it," Harrison mentioned after the game.  "It’s good to have it and hopefully I hold onto it for a while, but I couldn't have done it without these guys."

Youngstown State didn't let the Johnnies take them lightly.  The Penguins made sure that they opened with a statement on the road.  The Penguins were going right at the Johnnies, not afraid of their great shot blocking ability.

Perhaps overzealous on the defensive end, St. John's got into a little early foul trouble.  At the end of the first half, Harrison, Sampson, Greene and Chris Obekpa all had two fouls as the Red Storm and Penguins were tied, 43-43.

After intermission Sampson came out like a new man on both sides of the court.  As he shot 1-6 in the early going, Sampson  just looked like he was trying to do too much offensively.  Yet after haltime, he went back to his bread and butter with his mid-range jumpshots.  On defense he was altering shots, getting rebounds, and pushing the ball in transition.  His double-double was the first since the Johnnies' win over St. Francis more than a calendar year ago.

Both teams didn't have overly strong defensive efforts (10 players in double figures), but in the end, Harrison and Sampson proved to be too much  for the Horizon League's Penguins to handle.

Youngstown State, who ranks among the nation's best in points (81.4) and assists (16.8) per game, had an impressive six players score in double figures.  Kendrick Perry, with 20 points, led the way for the Penguins in the losing effort.

Freshman guard Rysheed Jordan did not play on Saturday due to being home in Philadelphia to stay with his very ill mother.  Although fourth year head coach Steve Lavin stated it was not a knee jerk reaction to the Jordan news, sophomore guard Felix Balamou, who had been expected to redshirt this season, was activated today and was in the starting lineup.

Jordan's return to the team is unknown, and likely depends on how his mother's health progresses in the coming days and/or weeks.

"We considered [activating Balamou] six weeks ago because Felix had been playing so well in practice," Lavin said.  "His ankle injury has healed quicker than expected and his performance has continued to improve."

St. John's will take a few days off for the holidays before they are back in action next Saturday at Barclays Center against inter-city rivals Columbia.  The Red Storm last met Columbia in Lavin's first season in 2010-11.