NEW YORK (AP) Sir’Dominic Pointer had the crowd at Carnesecca Arena groaning with 4.3 seconds to play Thursday night. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the junior swingman had made those fans happy after seeing a tough losing streak come to an end.
JaKarr Sampson, Orlando Sanchez and D’Angelo Harrison all scored 16 points and St. John’s hung on for a 77-76 victory over Seton Hall, its first Big East Conference win of the season.
The Red Storm (11-8, 1-5) snapped their five-game losing streak Saturday against Dartmouth, but didn’t secure their first conference victory until Pointer knocked the ball away from Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin at midcourt just before the buzzer.
But first, there was that turnover on an inbounds play.
”I was throwing the ball long. We had no timeouts. Nobody was open so I lobbed it long and hoped somebody would grab it,” he said of the pass from under his own basket that went out of bounds at the other end of the court. ”Luckily it got hit out of bounds. I had to take a chance with 5 seconds left.”
Sanchez touched the ball before it went out so the Pirates had to take it out under their own basket, 94 feet away, instead of under the Red Storm’s hoop.
That meant the Pirates would get a chance to win a second straight conference road game. Pointer didn’t let it happen.
”I just had to stop the ball,” he said. ”I saw (Edwin) put it behind his back. When I seen that I went for the ball. Of course I was taking a chance, but I took it and it worked out. It can be like that sometimes.”
St. John’s coach Steve Lavin couldn’t help smiling when he talked about the last two plays.
”He’s as resourceful a basketball player as I’ve coached,” Lavin said of Pointer, who finished with 10 points, one turnover and one steal. ”He does some things in terms of improvising and using ingenuity that’s a gift. But at times it’s frustrating and sometimes I’m not exactly sure what he has in mind, but more often than not he produces in a positive manner. I say he’s extraterrestrial.”
It looked as though St. John’s was going to coast to the win when it took a 65-48 lead with 8:59 to play. The Pirates answered with a 13-2 run to get close and it became a free throw shooting contest in the final minute.
Sterling Gibbs had 20 points for Seton Hall (11-8, 2-4) and Brian Oliver added 19, making five of the Pirates’ eight 3-pointers.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard kept referring to his team’s 19 turnovers, 15 of which came in the first half.
”We’ve mostly done a good job with pressure. We’ve attacked and got easy shots,” he said. ”This is the first time we got rattled on the road. That hadn’t happened to us, but we became a little passive with the basketball. That happens. This is a tough place to play. We were down 17 and came back with a chance to win. I’m proud of the effort.”
Edwin’s three-point play on a rebound basket brought the Pirates to 76-73 with 27 seconds to go. Harrison missed two free throws 2 seconds later. Gibbs, who was 6 of 15 at the free throw line against Georgetown on Saturday, missed the first of two with 14 seconds left to make it 76-74.
Freshman Rysheed Jordan made one of two from the line for the Red Storm with 9.2 seconds left. Gibbs was fouled before he could get off a possible game-tying 3-point attempt. He made both to make it a one-point game.
Then came Pointer’s turnover and steal.
”There was a little miscommunication between Fuquan and Sterling,” Willard said, ”but it should not have come down to that.”
Jamal Branch scored the first seven points of the Red Storm’s 15-1 run that gave them a 65-48 lead with 8:59 left, and the crowd of 5,106 was ready to breeze home to a long-awaited conference win.
But the Pirates, who have lost four of five – the lone win coming at Georgetown on Saturday – came right back with a 13-2 run that was keyed by Patrik Auda, who scored seven straight points in the burst that made it 67-61 with 5:15 to play.
The Pirates committed 15 turnovers in the first half, three more than their average for a game. The miscues led to 11 points for the Red Storm, who led 35-29 at halftime. St. John’s entered the game leading the Big East in turnover margin (plus 2.7).
The Red Storm, who committed 11 turnovers, shot 50.9 percent from the field (29 of 57) while the Pirates shot 52.1 percent (25 of 48).
”We played good defense in the last four games and lost them, and we played our worst defense tonight and we won,” Lavin said. ”This game is hard to figure sometimes – like our season.”
St. John’s finished 8-1 at Carnesecca Arena this season. The Red Storm’s last six home games will be played at Madison Square Garden.
Outside the locker room after the game, Lavin was asked about reports that he wasn’t getting support from the school and was thinking about leaving before his contract expires after next season.
”That talk is silly,” he said when asked if he was committed to the program.
Then he addressed the support he receives from the school.
”From my first day on the job to this afternoon, I’ve had the greatest possible support a head basketball coach could hope for from the St. John’s administration,” he said. ”But I understand that when you’re a coach at St. John’s, similar to at UCLA – in a major media market – things are going to be said that are not accurate.”