By Joseph Staszewski
The Red Storm is rolling again.
Senior forward Sir’Dominic Pointer turning in another superb game to lead one the St. John’s men’s basketball teams’ best team efforts of the season in a 78-70 road win over Xavier at the Cintas Center last Saturday. It is the Johnnies third straight win and fourth in their last five games. Pointer matched a career high with 24 points, grabbed five rebounds and collected four steals. He shot 9 of 10 from the field and 6-for-6 at the free-throw line.
The victory moves St. John’s to 17-8 overall, its best mark through 25 games since 1999-2000 and makes it 6-6 in the Big East after a 1-4 start. The Red Storm moved into fifth place in the conference, one game behind Providence and Georgetown for third.
D’Angleo Harrison scored 18 points for the Red Storm, who has continued to bolster their NCAA Tournament hopes during this winning streak. Phil Greene had 15 points and Jamal Branch added 11.
“It was a total team effort today,” St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said. “There were so many contributors.”
Center Matt Stainbrook paced Xavier (16-10. 7-7) with 17 points and nine rebounds. Lavin was concerned coming in about how his team was going to contain him with Chris Obekpa slowed by injury. St. John’s ended up trying a little bit of everything.
“Things started turning in our favor when Sir’Dominic Pointer started guarding him and limited his touches,” Lavin said. “Then we brought Chris from the help side.”
Xavier erased a nine point St. John’s lead to tie the score at 65-65 with less than five minutes to play in the game. The Red Storm allowed just two Xavier field goals after that and made some clutch plays down the stretch.
Rysheed Jordan made two big free throws and Pointer had a block of Stainbrook and a coast-to-coast layup. Greene, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half later found Jordan for an open three to put the Johnnies up six with 1:01 remaining in the game.
“Phil has been instrumental in a number of our wins when stepping up late in games to make big shots,” Lavin said. “I thought tonight he gave us a spark just when we needed it.”
The game appeared it would get away from St. John’s when Xavier opened up a 10-point lead in the first four minutes. Branch and Harrison then combined to score nine straight points to help give the Johnnies the lead. A 6-0 run would later put St. John’s up for good.
“There were a number of players that gave us the lift just when it looked as though we were going to fade into the early evening sunset,” Lavin said. “There was a balanced approach in terms of contributors on both ends of the floor.”