This group of seniors, D'Angelo Harrison, Sir'Dominic Pointer, Phil Greene, Khadim Ndiaye and Jamal Branch, have produced more than 5,000 career points, created an increase in team production year after year and created an ultimate bond, but one accomplishment they haven't experienced is the big stage of the NCAA Tournament.
They moved one step closer to that goal today as St. John's (20-9, 9-7) defeated archrival Georgetown (18-9, 10-6), 81-70, in a chippy match-up at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon.
Pointer, 24 points, and Greene, 26 points on six threes, did not disappoint on Senior Day as they combined to shoot 17 for 28 from the field for 50 total points. Harrison, one point, struggled with foul trouble for the majority of the game but had a couple of key rebounds in the second half.
Chris Obekpa scored five points and blocked three shots for the Johnnies while Rysheed Jordan contributed 15 points and again limited his turnover total to only two.
Jamal Branch, 10 points, and Felix Balamou certainly won't stuff the stat sheet but both have given the Red Storm some energy and depth late in the season. Branch was a huge factor for the Johnnies in this game, attacking the paint with ease, but pulled up and hurt his hip with eight minutes left in the game. He did not return and will be re-evaluated on Sunday.
Harrison, who was emotional during the pre-game introductions, picked up his second foul only 25 seconds into the game and went to the bench for the remainder of the half.
That didn't stop the Johnnies, as they responded with a 14-3 run led by Obekpa's dominance in the paint. For the second straight game, Obekpa completely changed the game by using his length and shot blocking ability to disrupt the opponent's ability to score inside.
The Hoyas struggled offensively in the first half, shooting only 33 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc. They settled for jump shots and turned the ball over 10 times (14 total) against the Johnnies stingy half-court man-to-man and zone defenses.
The Johnnies had success as they attacked the basket, played their up-tempo pace and went right at big man Josh Smith. The 6'10" 350 pound big man fouled out with 8:22 remaining and was not a factor for the entire afternoon.
Once the Johnnies built their lead, they continued to keep their foot on the gas, opening up a 16-point lead at one point. They shot 48 percent from the field, 53 percent from downtown and entered the bonus with 11:09 left in the second half.
The Red Storm only turned the ball over seven times and had 11 assists on 26 made field goals.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 29 points on 10-for-21 shooting and Mikael Hopkins added 10 points and 12 boards but that production clearly wasn't enough for the Hoyas to grab a win.
The Johnnies regular season does not end here as now they have to head on the road to Milwaukee to face off against Marquette, a team they barely defeated at Madison Square Garden in January. A win there and these seniors will have much more room for comfort heading into the postseason.