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December 28, 2013

St. John's Schools Columbia

BROOKLYN, NY - St. John's coach Steve Lavin fully expected the type of game that was played against Columbia at the Barclays Center.

It was a slow, methodical; grind it out type of game for the Red Storm. The game was the first game of three on the day, part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Classic.

Columbia came into the game 7-5, but already had the experience of putting a scare into Michigan State, the #2 team in the nation at the time. St. John's actually trailed Columbia by a point with a little over 7 minutes left, but they were able to regroup and take control of the game late. The end result was a solid 65-59 victory for the Johnnies.

It was a game of contrasting styles. That fact couldn't be demonstrated more clearly than the defense each team chose to play for all 40 minutes. St. John's played strictly man-to-man defense, while Columbia stayed in a 2-3 zone the entire contest. Because of that zone, the Johnnies were forced to play at Columbia's pace and slow it down and be patient.

The game was played mostly even in the first half and St. John's was able to shoot 50% from the field, scoring 37 points to go into halftime with a 7 point lead. It was a good effort all around, led by D'Angelo Harrison's 9 first half points shooting 4 for 4.

There didn't seem to be much energy in the building. The crowd was sparse, maybe because it was early in the afternoon. More than likely it was the opponent. Despite being a local team, Columbia isn't known as a basketball hotbed. An Ivy League education will increase the odds those players will be successful, just probably not on the basketball court.

St. John's came out and dominated right after the break, going up by as many as 14 after a three pointer from Jamal Branch. It looked like the Red Storm had it figured out and it would be an easy game the rest of the way. Up 48-32, there was still more than 14 minutes left in the game, more than enough time for Columbia to get back into it.

The Red Storm watched as Columbia made three straight three pointers and scored two more lay-ups. Grant Mullins, who scored a game high 17 points for the Lions, had a three and a backdoor layup to make it 48-47 game. A couple of possessions later Columbia took a 51-50 lead on a lay-up and free throw from Alex Rosenberg (13 points).

St. John's was patient against the zone, but they weren't making any baskets. They were also making things harder for them because they continued to turn the ball over. However, they never looked flustered the whole time their lead was disappearing.

Then it was like St. John's flipped that switch. Orlando Sanchez put St. John's back on top 52-51 when he put-back a missed shot from JaKarr Sampson. Sampson (11 points) followed that up by blocking a shot and getting a steal and finishing the break with a lay-up. The basket made it 55-51 and forced a timeout. That was the game right there. St. John's was able to pull away from there.

Harrison scored a team high 15 points, while Sanchez had 12 points on 6 of 10 shooting. The team had 8 blocks, Sampson and Sir'Dominic Pointer had 3 each. The win put the Red Storm at 9-3 on the season, with the start of Big East play up next when they play Xavier.

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