In front of nearly 4,500 Johnnies fans last night at Carnesecca Arena, the St. John's Red Storm dispatched the Niagara Purple Eagles, 70-57. Despite an expected blowout, this victory was no sure thing.
There was a vibe in the building early that the Red Storm might pull away expeditiously. After back-to-back threes by Myles Stewart and Jamal Branch put them up 15-7, St. John's looked poised to blow down the doors of the Eagles.
Then, there was Emile Blackman.
The Emile Blackman Show
Pouring in 21 points on the night, Blackman had a season-high, along with throwing up a season-high 21 shots. When he wasn't on the court for the Purple Eagles (who wore dapper white jerseys with purple across the top), the offense struggled mightily.
Harrison, Branch Lead the Way in Scoring
With 13 points and six rebounds by halftime, D'Angelo Harrison established that he was the best player on the court early on. This was evident when on the first play of the game, he drove from the right elbow and went to the basket untouched for an easy bucket, as if layup lines were still going on.
Harrison would finish the night with 16 points and nine rebounds, despite going only 1-for-5 from deep. He would have help in the scoring department from backcourt mate Jamal Branch who tossed in 12 points.
The Turning Point
It's a play that would go unrecognized in the box score, but as the remaining seconds ticked off the clock in the first half, Blackman would have a breakaway chance heading towards the St. John's basket.
Despite a defender challenging him at the rim, Blackman tried to dunk the ball down through the earth and secure himself a spot on the SportsCenter Top 10, before having the ball clank off the rim as the buzzer sounded. The dunk may not have gone in, but with only an 11-point deficit at halftime, Niagara had swung the momentum.
The Purple Eagles came out of the locker room ablaze. Before the Johnnies could throw a counterpunch, the lead had been cut down to one in just eight minutes. Two jump shots made by Phil Greene IV would help the Johnnies pull away over the next few minutes, creating just enough separation.
Bench Play Pays Dividends
A major difference in the game was the contributions each club got from their bench. While the Johnnies had both Rysheed Jordan and Sir'Dominic Pointer play in excess of 25 minutes on Tuesday, Niagara wouldn't have a player reach the 20-minute mark. But it was more than the minutes that hurt, it was the performance. Dominique Reid had seven points and five rebounds for the Purple Eagles, but that was all the scoring they would get from their bench. The Johnnies, on the other hand, poured in 21, with eight each coming from Jordan and Pointer.
Much was made about the night Harrison had offensively and crashing the glass, but unheralded has been Pointer. He may have had the most complete game of any player overall, scoring eight points, grabbing nine boards, dishing out four assists and blocking three shots.
The biggest shot of the night came off the unfurled fingers of Jordan, who made his first and only shot of the night from the field with 4:49 remaining, sinking a deep three-pointer that put St. John's ahead 65-50. It was a 12-0 run inside a 19-5 run that capped off what would become the Johnnies' fifth victory of the season.
The Road Ahead
Next up for St. John's will be their toughest test yet when they travel up to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York, for a collision with one of college basketball's most esteemed programs in the Syracuse Orange on Saturday night.