As the St. John’s men’s basketball team concluded their nail biting win over Big East foe Marquette on their home floor at Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm immediately flushed their valuable conference win to look ahead to arguably the biggest matchup of the season. A meeting with the Duke Blue Devils. With Duke experiencing a few upset losses, it made the job of speculators a little bit hard to easily hand the Blue Devils the win as they arrived to the world’s most famous arena. St. John’s encountered some of their own seasonal trials as well, beginning conference play at a subpar record of 2-4 despite their intensive 11-1 start along with being amongst the AP Top 25 rankings for five straight weeks. All eyes were on Sunday’s marquee matchup at the Garden as the two teams would meet for the first time in four years since their last meeting where the Johnnies deemed the triumphant ones as they toppled the Dukies in a 93-78 win.
With high hopes set for Coach Mike Krzyzewski possibly receiving his 1,000th win on the biggest stage, the Red Storm didn’t make it easy for the Blue Devils as they took their largest lead at 10 points as the game clock struck eight minutes left in the second half. Plenty pros were visible for St. John’s with the rise of sophomore guard, Rysheed Jordan, upon his return to the starting lineup after being subjected to the bench for 10 straight games and an enigmatic leave of absence from the team. Jordan played with the most fire in his eyes St. John’s fans had seen all season as he had one of his biggest performances in front of a sold out crowd of over 19,000 fans with the likes of Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony, Knicks team president Phil Jackson, along with St. John’s player and coach legends Chris Mullin and Lou Carnesecca in attendance. Jordan shot an efficient 43% from the field and showed better decision making in his shot selection.
Though Jordan exhibited a substantial game performance, nobody was more deserving of the player of the game title than senior guard/forward Sir’Dominic Pointer. Known for his garbage man tactics and hustle man plays, Sunday’s matchup against the Blue Devils was no different for Pointer as he ended the game with a stat line any fan would be proud of by shooting over 50% from the field, grabbing 12 boards, dishing out 4 assists, and going 3 a piece for steals and blocks. A performance that awarded him the honors of being named Player of the Week by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association & to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll.
Though the Johnnies controlled the tempo for majority of the game and had Duke exactly where they wanted them, they found themselves coming up short once again in the final minutes of a highly energetic matchup and suffered a 68-77 loss for a game that could’ve very much been theirs. This is where reality hits for the St. John’s men’s basketball team as their leader, shooting guard D’Angelo Harrison, who only scored 12 points on 5 of 14 shooting due to nursing of a couple injuries pertaining to his calf and shoulder. Harrison, who shows the heart of a warrior game after game, unfortunately never found his usual “shoot the lights out” groove and contributed to the team’s suffering loss when they needed him the most. St. John’s lack of a bench also hinders their full potential due to having a scarcity of substitutions for the starters to limit their fatigue instead of playing heavy minutes for majority of the game and running out of gas when they’re needed most. The most consistency St. John’s has seen from their bench is in senior guard, Jamal Branch, who’s had a stint in the starting lineup in place of Rysheed Jordan during Jordan’s 10 game bench term. One solid player coming off the bench has been the source of many of the St. John’s losses and not being able to finish games. A matchup that many NBA scouts were engaged in as much as fans, the momentum shifted in favor of Duke and Coach K was able to celebrate his 1,000th win as many had anticipated.
Now the Johnnies refocus on the next task at hand in actual conference play and look ahead to their matchup against the faltering Creighton Bluejays as they look to bounce back on the road to climb the Big East standings and make the best possible impression with 12 games remaining in their season in hopes of a bid in the NCAA Tournament. St. John’s currently stands 13-6 overall this season and will face Creighton on Wednesday, January 28th at 9pm on FOX Sports 1.