St. John's beats Bucknell 67-63

JIM O'CONNELL (AP Basketball Writer)
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- St. John's didn't solve its long-range shooting woes but the Red Storm did cause some problems for Bucknell.

Phil Greene IV scored 16 points, including some rare 3-pointers for St. John's, and the Red Storm beat Bucknell 67-63 on Tuesday night.

''I've got to hit some shots. I have to be aggressive. I didn't want to shy away,'' Greene said. ''They were giving us the shots. We take a lot of shots in practice so why not take them.''

The Red Storm (2-1) came into the game having made two of 23 3-point attempts and that included missing all 10 in a win over Wagner last Friday. Things didn't start out so well against the Bison (2-2) either as St. John's went 1 of 8 on 3s in the first half.

Bucknell spread the court on offense and was able to stay in front for the first half and the first 8 minutes of the second. Then a couple of long shots started falling for St. John's and Bucknell struggled against the Red Storm's 2-3 zone, a defense that helped St. John's block 13 shots.

"We struggled to score,'' Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said. ''We missed 30 shots and they had 13 blocks. Almost half of our misses were blocks.''

Greene hit two 3s in a span of 51 seconds to give the Red Storm a 46-45 lead - their first of the game since 2-0. His output was one off St. John's total for the season to that point. The Red Storm were 3 for 32 from beyond the arc until then.

''We tried to dare them to shoot mid-range jumpers,'' said Bucknell's Cameron Ayers, who had a career-high 25 points. ''they got hot in the second half. ... We knew they were going to block shots and they did.''

Brian Fitzpatrick scored down low with 10 minutes left to give Bucknell a 51-48 lead but the Red Storm went on a 12-0 run that was capped by a desperation jumper at the shot clock buzzer by JaKarr Sampson with 8:22 to play and Bucknell wasn't able to play from behind, closing within four points three times.

''The zone defense was the difference. It took them out of their rhythm and set up the blocks because it kept our bigs at home,'' St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. ''Offensively there was progress with some timely shots, especially Phil, and we had just enough down the stretch, making free throws to salt the win away.''

Ayers, the son of former Philadelphia 76ers coach Randy Ayers, had 16 of Bucknell's 35 points in the first half. He was 9 of 15 from the field overall, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

''We tried to play at our own pace, not be in a hurry,'' Ayers said of the difference between the halves. ''It was tough to play against those guys. They played a smart game.''

Chris Hass hit a 3-pointer that brought Bucknell within 61-57 with 1:02 to play. The Bison wanted to send the Red Storm to the free throw line but they had just one team foul. Bucknell committed five fouls in 4 seconds and finally got St. John's to the line with 57 seconds to go and D'Angelo Harrison made both ends of the 1-and-1. The Red Storm went 4 of 6 from the free throw line over the final 34 seconds.

''It's a disappointing loss for us,'' Paulsen said. ''I thought we played very well for stretches at a time. We just couldn't hold St. John's off in the second half.''

The Red Storm, who led the nation in blocked shots last season at 7.3 per game, were led by Chris Obekpa, who led the nation last season with 4.03 per game, leading the way with seven.

''We feed off blocks,'' said junior forward Sir'Dominic Pointer, who had four points, six rebounds and six assists. ''Obekpa is the best in the country. We get hyped and that makes us more energetic.''

Harrison has 12 points for the Red Storm, who finished 4 of 15 from beyond the arc, and Sampson added 11.

Fitzpatrick had 12 points for the Bison.

The only other meeting between the schools was a 26-18 St. John's victory on Feb. 10, 1912.

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