NEW YORK (AP) - After their Dec. 28 victory against Columbia, St. John’s began its Big East schedule by losing five consecutive games. It turned out that all it needed to get back in the win column was another Ivy League opponent.
The Red Storm snapped their five-game skid on Saturday night with a 69-55 victory over Dartmouth before a crowd of 5,505 at Carnesseca Arena.
“It was a positive step to get a win at this stage, given that we haven’t picked up a victory yet in the league,” St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said. “Just good to get that feeling for what it’s like to return to the winner’s circle.”
St. John’s (10-8) got the badly-needed victory behind a strong performance from Phil Greene IV, who led the way for St. John’s with 16 points in just 24 minutes of action. His three 3-pointers in the first ten minutes of the game got St. John’s off to the solid start they were looking for, just two days removed from a devastating double-overtime defeat against Providence.
JaKarr Sampson added 11 points for Red Storm. After the game, Sampson admitted that the five-game losing streak was weighing heavily on the squad.
“A win like this is always good, no matter how good a team is, no matter how bad a team is,” Sampson said. “We got the monkey off our back, and we can move on.”
The key to the St. John’s win, according to Lavin, was their constant ball movement. The Red Storm only had a combined 10 assists in the game, but Lavin contends that it’s a deceptive statistic.
“I felt they were looking for one another on offense,” Lavin said of his squad. “What jumped out to me was just that we played at a nice pace, hit the open man, shared the basketball (and) had some good ball movement.
Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier didn’t seem to think that the Red Storm’s quick turnaround impacted their performance. He cited their athleticism as a key factor in the contest, particularly late.
“St. John’s played terrific in the second half,” Cormier said. “We had to quicken our shots because we were playing against a very athletic team.”
Dartmouth coach John Cormier tried to have his squad keep up with St. John’s by making frequent substitutions. Fourteen players saw action for the Big Green on the night and nine logged more than 11 minutes.
The Big Green played tough throughout the first half, and even took a brief lead with 7:27 remaining in the period on a Malik Gill 3-pointer. Alex Mitola hit a wild shot from downtown to close out the frame for Dartmouth, which cut the Big Green’s deficit to four.
But John Golden, who led the Big Green with 13 points on the night, was forced to play tentatively in the second half, having picked up his third foul late in the first. And Dartmouth just wasn’t able to find another viable scoring option. Still, Cormier appreciated his squad’s intensity.
“I’m proud of my guys because it wasn’t a lack of effort,” Cormier said. “It was a lack of decision making and making shots in the second half.”
Indeed, the Big Green shot a dreadful 8-30 from the floor in the second half. Connor Boehm, Gabas Maldunas, and Mitola were the biggest culprits. They went a combined 9-33 on the night.