St. John's

JaKarr Sampson, St. John’s tied for 3rd in Big East after win over Seton Hall

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Freshman JaKarr Sampson scored 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the floor as St. John’s defeated Seton Hall, 71-67, Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

It was Sampson’s seventh straight game scoring in double figures and he continues to build his strong resume for the league’s Rookie of the Year. With the victory, St. John’s moves into a tie for third place in the Big East conference after being chosen to finish 10th in the preseason media poll.

The Red Storm have struggled through some growing pains, including a loss to UNC-Asheville at home to end the non-conference season and shooting 36 percent in a loss to Georgetown on Jan. 12, but have now won four games in a row and have pulled into a tie for third in the Big East with a conference mark of 5-3.

Despite aging by one year and being older than the historically young team St. John’s sent to the floor last season, this is still one of the youngest teams in the country. The starting lineup Sunday against Seton Hall featured four sophomores and a freshman.

They showed maturity down the stretch Sunday after letting a 16-point second-half lead dwindle down to just one with 4:22 to play. Sophomore D’Angelo Harrison led all scorers with 24 points and hit two big off-balance jumpers and four free throws in the final 2:30 of regulation to help seal the win.

St. John’s leads the country in blocks, led by freshman Chris Obekpa (4.6 blocks per game), which allows for more defensive gambling on the perimeter from its guards. With Obekpa as a shot blocker around the rim, the length and athleticism on the perimeter becomes more bothersome for opponents and offers one of the more unique, though undersized defensive attacks in the conference.

St. John’s already has quality conference wins over Cincinnati on the road and Notre Dame, and now moves on to another winnable game at home against DePaul on Jan. 30. The road in the Big East is a difficult one, but that also gives coach Steve Lavin and  his team a chance to chalk up quality wins and built a postseason-worthy resume.

So could we be talking about an NCAA tournament bubble team? Lavin has already taken one of his St. John’s teams dancing, and the young Red Storm are on the right path for some kind of postseason berth, come March.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown:

Niang, Morris lead No. 14 Iowa State past No. 24 Texas

Iowa State forward Georges Niang drives past Texas guard Tevin Mack, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After falling at Texas Tech for the second straight season midweek, No. 14 Iowa State needed to bounce back with No. 24 Texas visiting Hilton Coliseum. The return of Jameel McKay, who was suspended for two games, certainly helped the Cyclones and the play of Georges Niang and Monte Morris was key as well. But the biggest difference on this night was the fact that Iowa State was able to limit the effectiveness of Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor.

 

Taylor scored just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field, and with Morris and Niang scoring 24 points apiece the Cyclones won by the final score of 85-75.

Taylor had multiple opportunities to make plays around the basket thanks to his ability to beat defenders off the bounce, but he struggled to finish. Add in a 0-for-4 night from three, and Texas’ most dangerous offensive option was unable to duplicate his performance in the first meeting between the two teams. In Texas’ 94-91 overtime win over the Cyclones January 12, Taylor scored 28 points and dished out six assists with just one turnover, shooting 11-for-17 from the field.

Four Longhorns finished in double figures, with Tevin Mack and Javan Felix scoring 18 apiece, but with Morris decisively winning the point guard matchup Texas was unable to pick up the win on the road.

For Iowa State the aforementioned tandem of Morris and Niang performed as they did in the first meeting, which should come as no surprise. What helped them, especially when it came to Texas attacking the basket, was the presence of McKay. McKay finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes of action, and to have their best interior defender back on the floor certainly helped the Cyclones on this night.

With their lack of depth Iowa State’s margin for error is small, especially when it comes to foul trouble, injuries and disciplinary reasons. Even with Texas’ size advantage Iowa State outscored them in the paint 48-34, and McKay’s defensive ability factored into that. The Cyclones can put points on the board with the best of them, but at some point they’ll need to string together stops as the games get even bigger.

Iowa State managed to do that down the stretch, with Morris and Niang running the show offensively. And that’s a good formula to be able to rely upon as the season approaches its most important month.