St. John’s played an uncomfortably tight game with Hofstra for all forty minutes, but they ultimately escaped by the skin of their teeth with a narrow 84-79 win against the Pride inside UBS Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams were missing key players, Hofstra with Jacco Fritz and St. John’s with Chris Ledlum. Both teams also struggled to separate from each other, taking turns committing sloppy turnovers throughout the first half. Aside from briefly losing grasp of the lead with 7:08 remaining in the first stanza, St. John’s paced the game, but only barely. They held a 36-32 halftime lead that could have been larger if they were less sloppy with the rock.
Out of the break, St. John’s vaulted to a 7-0 run and expanded their lead to 13 points in the early stages of the second half, but Hofstra kept trying to claw back. Whenever the Red Storm had a chance to pull away, Darlinstone Dubar or Tyler Thomas were there to hit an opportune shot. 31 of the duo’s 47 combined points were scored in the second half, as St. John’s seemingly had zero counter for them. At one point in Hofstra’s fervent comeback attempt, Thomas stepped back and drilled a three-pointer over the 6-foot-9 Zuby Ejiofor to draw the Pride within three.
Daniss Jenkins’s buccaneering approach with the ball has helped and hurt St. John’s throughout the early portions of the season. Today, that aggressiveness sealed the win for St. John’s. With 28 seconds remaining and the Red Storm holding a slim 77-74 lead, Jenkins took the inbound pass, dribbled to the right side of the court, then sank a game-clinching jumper over Jaquan Carlos.
DJ HAS TAKEN OVER pic.twitter.com/h0Wp2eXt8H— St. John's Men’s Basketball (@StJohnsBBall) December 30, 2023
That jumper, plus two ensuing free throws with seconds remaining, would punctuate a season-high 21 point, 9 rebound, and 8 assist performance from Jenkins. With the absence of Ledlum and Joel Soriano (14 points, 4 rebounds) having a quiet day, other guards also stepped up. R.J. Luis recorded his first collegiate double-double, logging 12 points and 10 rebounds, in what was also his first start as a member of the Red Storm. Jordan Dingle drilled a trio of threes in a 15 point, 5 rebound performance.
For a team that appeared to be cobbling together defensive consistency over recent games, Saturday’s game took St. John’s off their upward trajectory. The Red Storm should consider themselves fortunate that they departed Belmont Park with a win, but Big East play resumes in three days, and they’ll have to get back on track against a Butler team that boasts a surprisingly good offense on Tuesday night.