Luckily for Red Storm fans, the Johnnies were in the giving mood as well down the stretch, and handed UTPA a 66-61 defeat in St. John’s last matchup before Christmas and Big East play.
D’Angelo Harrison tied a career high with 21 points, which included the difference-making deep 3-pointer with 36 seconds left, to give St. John’s its final lead and the victory. Harrison fired at a 7-for-13 clip from the field, sank three 3's and scored 17 points in the second half to lift the Red Storm.
“We were down, so I was just trying to bring some energy,” said Harrison, who scored 10 unanswered points during a second-half stretch, even before the game-winning dagger. “I hit some shots so that really brought us together. We were all trying to get the win together.”
St. John’s had already received a present earlier in the day as rookie forward and Top 100 prospect Amir Garrett was declared eligible and joined the squad. Garrett played 15 minutes and scored three points with two rebounds in a debut that even preceded his first official full-length practice.
The biggest gift of all, of course, was junior forward God’sgift Achiuwa. The 6'8” big man was a force in the post, with a career-high 22 point, nine-rebound performance that included a 10-for-14 effort from the field and even featured his first career Division I 3-pointer.
The Broncos extended a second-half lead to 12, 44-32 with 14:34 to play, before Harrison’s initial flurry. His 10-0 personal run with two layups and a pair of 3s cut the deficit to two, 44-42 with 11:19 to play.
After St. John’s closed to within one point four times, Sir’Dominic Pointer tied the game at 53-53 with a 3-point play before giving the Red Storm a brief two-point lead – its first advantage since 6:32 in the first half – with a layup.
UTPA, however, made a pair of long treys to retake a 61-57 lead with just 3:45 and led by two with less than a minute in regulation. Harrison’s long-range 3-pointer with 36 seconds on the clock put the Red Storm up 62-61 and Moe Harkless (9 points, 5 boards) added a steal and a fast break dunk to secure the victory.
“It was a totally different second half,” said Assistant Coach Mike Dunlap, “We made some great shots, it came down to conditioning and gutting it out and our guys making plays at the very end.”
St. John’s opened the game firing at an 8-for-11 clip and after Harrison drained a pair of free throws at the 11:34 mark, the Red Storm led by 10, 19-9. A Harkless trey gave the Red Storm a 22-15 lead at 10:32, but also marked the last St. John’s field goal of the opening stanza. The Broncos quickly cut into the lead before a Jesus Delgado layup tied the game at 24-24 with 6:32 to go. Another Delgado layup opened up an 8-0 run for UTPA as St. John’s would miss its final nine field goals of the half and trail at the break, 32-24.