A crowd of 4,185 watched Phil Greene IV and D’Angelo Harrison hit clutch three-pointers down the stretch, as well as witness national rejections leader Chris Obekpa continue to come up with huge game-changing blocks.
The Red Storm needed a pair of huge 3-pointers from Harrison in the final 4:07 and another clutch 3-ball from Greene IV with just 1:04 to play to defeat Monmouth in a college basketball season that has already seen some key upsets.
“He’s got that Reggie Jackson thing going,” head coach Steve Lavin said of Harrison’s late-game heroics. “He wants to seize the moment. He’s a big-game, big-moment player. He and Phil are a nice tandem.”
“I think my teammates do a good job finding me,” said Harrison, who entered the contest second in the Big East in scoring at 21.3 points a game. “I live for those kinds of moments.”
Greene finished with game-high 22 points on 9-of-12 field goals and a 2-for-4 effort from long range to follow his team-best 16-point effort in St. John’s win over Bucknell only three days ago.
Harrison added 15 points in 16 minutes, which included a 3-of-6 mark from beyond the arc. JaKarr Sampson chipped in with 14 points for St. John’s (3-1), his fourth double-figure output in as many games this season, and added nine boards.
The Hawks (1-3) went toe-to-toe with St. John’s for much of the contest, trailing just 28-26 at the half and holding a 40-38 lead with 14:14 to play. The Red Storm struggled with team defense all evening and undersized Monmouth outrebounded St. John’s, 44-35, and outscored St. John’s in the paint, 32-16.
“I was not pleased with our effort on the defensive end of the floor,” said head coach Steve Lavin. “I felt that we were a step slow the entire night. We have to do a better job of things we can control and I thought defensively we were awful tonight.”
Despite an overall defensive effort that was not praiseworthy, the Red Storm did tie a single-game program record with 15 blocked shots. Obekpa, who led the nation in rejections at 4.03 per game last season, was only two off his individual game-record with nine swats.
Earlier in the evening, it was announced that freshman guard Rysheed Jordan would not play in the game due to an undisclosed violation of team rules. Jordan was named the 2013-14 Big East Conference Preseason Rookie of the Year and has averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 assists in three contests this season.
The Red Storm continue play with an on-campus game as part of the Barclays Center Classic presented by Continental Tire, taking on Longwood on Tuesday, Nov. 26, prior to the team’s second appearance in two seasons at the Barclays Center on Friday.