By Joseph Staszewski
Sir’Dominic Pointer fully understood the risks he was taking on two key late game plays. The gamble in his mind was worth it.
“You just have to be like that sometimes,” Pointer said.
Good fortune instead of disaster ensued as the Red Storm held on for a 77-76 victory over Seton Hall at Carnesecca Arena Jan. 23. It gave St. John’s University its first Big East basketball win of the season after a 17-point second half lead nearly got away. The Johnnies picked up a second conference victory by beating Butler 69-52 on the road two days later behind 20 points from JaKarr Sampson.
“It’s no secret that we’ve struggled to close out games. I thought our team exhibited poise and composure down the stretch,” St. John’s head Coach Steve Lavin said after beating the Bulldogs.
His team showed resourcefulness in the final minutes against Seton Hall. Pointer threw an inbounds pass the length to the court in hopes of avoiding a five-second call and Seton Hall gaining possession under the Red Storm’s basket down a point with 4.3 seconds left.
“We didn’t have any timeouts and no one was open,” Pointer said. “I was just thinking lob the ball and hopefully someone will grab it and we either play good D or the ball will get hit out.”
Orlando Sanchez smarty tipped it out of bounds. It ensured the Pirates had to go the length of the floor to try to win the game.
“It was a big-time play by Orlando,” St. John’s sophomore Sampson said.
Pointer secured the win by knocking the ball away from Fuquan Edwin, risking a foul, as the Seton Hall guard was racing up court to try to get the final shot. Lavin said Pointer finds so many ways to affect a game, though not always conventionally.
“More often than not he produces for us in a positive manner,” Lavin said. “There are those occasions where you’re scratching your head and wonder what he is thinking.”
The Red Storm (11-8, 1-5) forced 19 Seton Hall turnovers and got out in transition as it was playing above the rim. Sampson, D’Angelo Harrison and Sanchez each scored 16 points for St. John’s. Sterling Gibbs led Seton Hall (11-8, 2-4) with 20 and Brian Oliver added 19.
St. John’s late game woes appeared again. It missed jumpers and allowed Seton Hall to attack the paint for three-point plays. The usually steady Harrison and Rysheed Jordan missed key free throws down the stretch. There was a feeling of relief once Pointer’s gambles paid off and St. John’s had its first conference win.
“It feels good to get the monkey off our back,” Sampson said.