As Matt Carlino's three-point shot bounded off the rim as the buzzer expired, giving the Red Storm a 60-57 win, you could nearly feel the whoosh of air coming from the exhalation of the St. John's faithful packed inside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
For a team that has been inside the top-25 already this season, expectations have been sky-high. But to start Big East play, things have been anything but a cakewalk. The Red Storm are coming off a demoralizing second half collapse on the road to DePaul, where their record inside the conference fell to 1-4. The only team worse-off is the winless Creighton Blue Jays.
On any night when All-American candidate D'Angelo Harrison goes just 3-for-18 shooting from the field, the Johnnies cannot like their odds. He would open the game 1-for-12 in the first half, forcing others to step up and fill the void left by their leading scorer.
Time for Rysheed to lead
Words and hyperbole cannot do justice to just how intricate a part of the rotation Rysheed Jordan is for St. John's. Just merely his presence allows coach Steve Lavin to play six men in his rotation, opposed to five. Without a doubt, had Jordan not come to play against Marquette, the Johnnies would be buried in a 1-5 hole inside the Big East.
Tying for the team lead with 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting, with two made three-point baskets, Jordan was the silent assassin that kept the score tight. After the game, teammate Phil Greene IV spoke on his performance. "He comes to the game with a different approach," said Greene, "he's more focused on basketball."
After a brief hiatus due to personal reasons, the Red Storm are welcoming back a potential game-changing player when he is on.
Bow down to the cornrows
The best player on the floor for either team was undoubtedly Sir'Dominic Pointer. Playing as if he had his own personal stamina replenishment, Pointer quite literally soared across the court the entire night. He'd finish with an incredible stat line of 15 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks, six assists, and two steals.
Yet, his most important contributions came down the stretch after Marquette guard Matt Carlino came out to start the second half scorching hot. Carlino hammered home his first four threes, blanketed by men in silver who were not Pointer. Then, Sir'Dominic took it in his own hands. "I just used my length on him," said Pointer when asked how he locked down Carlino, "He's a great shooter when he gets space, even a little bit."
After making his first four threes of the second half, Carlino would not make another field goal the rest of the way. It must not be fun to be put in lockdown on Pointer Island.
Coach Lavin vs. Coach K
The hype for Sunday afternoon's collision at Madison Square Garden between the #5 Duke Blue Devils (16-2, 4-2) and the Johnnies has now become palpable. While the matchup of coaches is impressive between the legendary Mike Krzyzewski and Steve Lavin, the matchup on the interior between Chris Obekpa, and lottery-pick-to-be, Jahlil Okafor, will be something to watch as well.
Coach Lavin was pleased with the way Obekpa played on the interior Wednesday night, stating, "Chris with the five blocks, two steals, ten rebounds-it was an impressive performance."
While there is great respect between the two coaches, Lavin emphasized that "it's still about our team beating his team," when asked what it means to matchup with his friend, Coach K. He continued on, "The Duke game presents a big opportunity for us on our home floor against good team."
The collision happens Sunday at 2:00 p.m. EST, live from Madison Square Garden.