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March 19, 2013

Red Storm Hawks in NIT

St. John's escaped the clutches of St. Joseph's in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) on Tuesday after sophomore swingman Sir'Dominic Pointer nailed a clutch, step-back, fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to secure a 63-61 victory.

The Red Storm (17-15), who were on a five-game losing streak, bounced back with a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

"Tonight's win was a total team effort by our young Johnnies," said St. John's head coach Steve Lavin.

St. John's struggled to get over the hump until Pointer drained a 3-pointer at the 7:25 mark of the second half to bring the Johnnies within three points, 54-51.

Although the Hawks (18-14) would gain a five-point advantage again off a basket by Carl Jones (game-high 21 points), St. John's had already broken their momentum.

A bucket by sophomore swingman Amir Garrett on an assist from Pointer gave St. John's its first lead, 57-56, with 3:17 left in the game.

Pointer, who had been powering Johnnies with hard-nosed play, finished with an impressive 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three blocks and one steal. Teammate freshman forward JaKarr Sampson had a team-high 16 points.

"We had a number of contributors highlighted by Sir'Dominic's clutch buzzer beating basket to complete an impressive comeback win," said Lavin. "I'm really proud of our kids' resiliency and resolve in finding a way to get a well-deserved victory."

St. John's was able to extend its lead to as much as four points, 60-56, on a dunk by freshman forward Chris Obekpa (six points, eight rebounds). St. Joseph's tied the game at 61 on a 2-of-2 performance by Ronald Roberts with 5.7 seconds remaining before Pointer punctuated the game with his clutch jumper.

The young Storm got to the line for the first time in the game at the 9:04 mark of the second half. The Storm's sophomore guard Jamal Branch (nine points, five assists) went 2-of-2 from the charity stripe to cut his team's deficit to five points, 51-46.

St. Joseph's led 32-26 at halftime.

Hopes for a win appeared to dim when the Hawks took as much as a 12 point-lead at the 18:26 mark of the first half after St. Joseph's struck the Red Storm with a barrage of 3-pointers. St. Joseph's Langston Galloway (16 points) was red hot from the perimeter, knocking down three of the Hawks' five first-half treys.

Red Storm sophomore guard Phil Greene added 10 points in the win.

St. John's shot 55 percent in the second half en route to a 45 percent shooting percentage overall.

The win comes at a welcomed surprise for the Red Storm faithful, who were hoping to see the Johnnies' postseason extended.

"By advancing to the next round of the NIT," said Lavin, "our young team will continue to gain valuable postseason experience."

St. John's will face Virginia in the next round of the NIT.

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