QUEENS, N.Y. At the 8:24 mark of the first half, St. John's freshman guard Felix Balamou went down with a bloody nose after being hit in the face with an elbow by Florida Gulf Coast University senior guard Sherwood Brown.
Balamou, who received the first start of his young career on Saturday, said after the contest that it was his first time getting hit in the nose during a game.
"All I know is that I was playing defense," said Balamou. "It hurt really bad."
Starting with the two made free throws sophomore guard D'Angelo Harrison took for Balamou, who had to be briefly treated off the court, St. John's went on to outscore the competition 18-7. As a result, the Red Storm (4-2, 0-0 BIG EAST) climbed up from an 11-point deficit, 25-14, to tie the game at 32 on a bucket by St. John's freshman forward JaKarr Sampson just before halftime.
The Red Storm continued its dominant performance into the second half - led in scoring by Harrison, but paced by the excellent, versatile floor game of sophomore swingman Sir'Dominic Pointer. The Eagles (4-3, 0-0 A-SUN), ultimately, got swept into the Storm, as St. John's won the game 79-68, notching its second-consecutive victory following the win over Holy Cross on Wednesday.
"That's our brother," said Pointer. "When he got hit that gave us a little extra motivation to go out there and play a little bit harder. We don't like any teammates going down like that."
Pointer posted a career-high 15 points to go along with eight rebounds, six assists, three bocks and two steals in 28 minutes of floor time.
"As soon as it happened, we were like we have to play harder," Pointer added, "not just the fact that Felix got hit, but the fact that we were down and he got hit."
Although the Johnnies went into the locker room at the break tied, the squad trailed Florida Gulf Coast on the boards, 21-12. From jump-ball it seemed as if the Johnnies did not contain the fire to clean the glass, crippled by a -10 margin (11-1) about eight minutes into the contest.
However, after a halftime discussion about rebounding, the Red Storm lit up on the glass, outrebounding the competition in the second half by +11 and, ultimately, outrebounding the Eagles 33-31 for the game.
"[Head coach Steve Lavin] said in order for us to win the game, we had to outrebound them by 10 in the second half," said Pointer. "We went out there and did that. He got on us about that because that is one of our weaknesses, so we've got to get better at that."
Prior to the hardwood incident, the Johnnies saw a deficit of as high as 13 points, 23-10, at the 9:44 mark of the first quarter when Eagles' Brown stole the ball from sophomore guard Phil Greene and converted on a fastbreak dunk in transition. Conversely, St. John's saw an advantage of as much as 14 points, 66-52, with six minutes left in the matchup on a slam dunk by Balamou off a steal and feed from Pointer.
"While we are still a work in progress, I'm pleased with our ability to fight back in games," said Lavin, "and also to maintain our poise and composure to problem solve and to find a way to win games. I'm pleased with the gradual maturation process."
Harrison led his squad, tying the game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 from the field, while Sampson and Greene recorded 12 and 10 points, respectively. St. John's shot at a 55-percent clip (33-of-60) from the field overall, which included an impressive 60.6 percent (20-of-33) in the second half.
It was the first time this season that the Johnnies had four players score in double-figures.