NEW YORK (AP) - There was a lot of talk Saturday about St. John’s turning the corner. The Red Storm beat Marquette 74-59 at Madison Square Garden, their fourth win in five games and one that had a lot of people feeling upbeat about a team that was winless in the Big East 16 days ago.
“This was another positive step forward which in encouraging as we round the corner and head to the second half of Big East play,” Red Storm coach Steve Lavin said. “You hope you play like today to try and get a win, continue to make progress.”
D’Angelo Harrison scored 27 points and was 6 of 11 from 3-point range as St. John’s put on a solid performance on both ends of the court.
Harrison, who leads the team in scoring at 17.7 points per game, did a lot more than shoot for the Red Storm (13-9, 3-6 Big East) as he finished with six rebounds, three assists, two steals and two of St. John’s 12 blocked shots.
“We’re finally clicking,” Harrison said. “Everyone had a great game for us. We’re buying into the process and believe we can turn the corner and turn this around and we have over the last five games.”
The Red Storm had one of their better defensive games of the season and the blocks had a lot to do with that.
St. John’s came in leading the nation in blocks at 8.3 per game and Chris Obekpa, who had seven Saturday, came in seventh in the country at 3.3 per game.
“The interior defense ignites our offense,” Lavin said. “Chris’s blocking fuels what we want to do offensively.”
Marquette coach Buzz Williams was asked about Obekpa, who had seven blocks against the Golden Eagles last season.
“He does outstanding job of throwing it to the stands against our guys,” he said.
Derrick Wilson had 14 points for Marquette (12-10, 4-5), which continued its streak of win one, lose one for the 12th consecutive game. The loss dropped the Golden Eagles, the preseason favorite to win the conference, into a tie for fifth place with Seton Hall.
The Golden Eagles, who came in as the lowest scoring team in the 10-team conference (71.0), struggled all game with their shooting. Marquette shot 34.8 percent for the game (23 of 66), including 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range, another statistical category it is last in in the Big East at 29.7 percent.
“We need to shoot better than 35 percent from the field to have a chance to win on the road and 16 turnovers is really high in a 70-, 72-possession game.”
Marquette, which opened the game on a 6-0 run, had won 13 of the last 14 meetings between the schools.
St. John’s held Marquette to three field goals over the last 12:45 of the first half and was able to take a 33-20 lead.
The Red Storm pulled away to the big lead with a 15-2 run that Harrison started with a 3-pointer and a four-point play. He was fouled by Deonte Burton as he hit his sixth 3 of the game. Harrison jumped up from the court and screamed toward the crowd. His free throw made it 51-33. The run ended when freshman Rysheed Jordan dunked on a breakaway to make it 59-35 with 11:24 to go.
“It’s hard to guard all of us when we’re moving the ball,” Harrison said. “You can’t guard all five of us when that’s what we’re doing.”
Lavin and Williams sounded very different.
“I love the upside of this team,” Lavin said. I love the personnel, the chemistry. That’s never changed.”
Williams talked frankly about his team, which was ranked 17th in the preseason Top 25, reaching the NCAA tournament.
“I would say we probably have to go 7-2 down the stretch,” he said. “That would be 11 conference wins and that might get you in as a bubble team. Maybe we have to win a game in New York in the Big East tournament. We don’t have enough data on the new Big East to know what it takes to be an at-large team.”
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