NEW YORK (AP) JaKarr Sampson had an explanation for and a solution to the problem of St. John's poor starts which have had the Red Storm trailing by double figures.
"It's just a bad habit we have. We don't come out with enough energy, enough fight," the sophomore forward said Saturday. "We have to come out like we're down already."
The Red Storm were down big very early against Georgia Tech, trailing 19-4 just over 12 minutes in. But, just like against Penn State the night before, they rallied to get even and this time, pulled away for a 69-58 victory over the Yellow Jackets in the third-place game of the Barclays Center Classic.
D'Angelo Harrison scored 21 points for St. John's (5-2), which used a 24-2 run in the second half to take control and offset Friday night's 89-82 overtime loss to Penn State.
Harrison was 12 of 13 from the free throw line, where St. John's enjoyed a big advantage. The Red Storm were 27 of 35, while Georgia Tech was 12 of 14.
"Of course we're frustrated but this team has a way of fighting back," Harrison said. "We have to get together. We can't get down 15. That will be a whole new ballgame when we get the lead early."
Robert Carter Jr. and Trae Golden both had nine points for the Yellow Jackets (5-3), who still led 46-36 with 13:04 to play on a layup by Daniel Miller.
That would be their last field goal for 11:39 as St. John's went on the big run. Before the drought ended on an offensive rebound by Miller with 1:25 to play, Georgia Tech missed 13 shots from the field, committed eight turnovers and went 4 for 4 from the free throw line.
"Unlike the first half, there were a couple of things that happened in the second half," Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. "Defensively, they guarded the basket and they did a good job of attacking the basket. Twenty-five free throws in the second half, that's hard to overcome. Our turnovers really hurt us. Once we took the 10-point lead, the rest of the way they hit one jump shot and then it was either a free throw or layup. A lot of those layups were created off turnovers."
Sampson added 16 points for St. John's. Chris Obekpa, who leads the nation in blocked shots at 5.8 per game, had six blocks, three points and five rebounds.
"He just doesn't get blocks, he gets blocks at crucial times," Gregory said of Obekpa, whom he recruited heavily. "His blocks lead to breaks. That's a great weapon."
Miller had eight points and 12 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets, who finished with 20 turnovers, eight over their average for the season.
Georgia Tech, which lost 77-67 to Mississippi in the semifinals, opened the early lead as the Red Storm had their own drought.
The Yellow Jackets were 5 for 10 from 3-point range in the first half, a surprising result for a team that came in shooting 29.2 percent from beyond the arc. Georgia Tech finished 6 of 16 on 3-pointers.
Sampson's dunk off an alley-oop pass from Jamal Branch started the Red Storm's big run, and they scored 17 straight points in taking a 53-46 lead with 6:26 to go.
"I thought the kids played with purpose in the second half. It was a cohesive bunch," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "The last two games were really good for us. Naturally I would have preferred to leave here with a 6-1 record, but I thought our best game of the season was last night. We didn't play as well today but we won. ... We took a baby step in our development."