When the season began, new St. John's coach Steve Lavin expressed hope that forward Justin Brownlee would have a breakout season that would take the Red Storm to a higher level this season. Brownlee didn't show up for the opener at St. Mary's, but he must have gotten the message because he's raging now.
Brownlee (pictured) had 20 points to lead St. John's for the third straight game, and he was named Outstanding Player of the Great Alaska Shootout after the Red Storm (4-1) rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat Arizona State, 67-58, for the title. The Storm shot 64 percent in the second half (16 of 25) and closed the game with a 25-9 run.
Dwight Hardy, who was Lavin's other selection for a breakout season, added 14 points, all in second-half crunch time. Paris Horne had 11 points, and Malik Stith, who might be the surprise player of this young season, scored eight of his 10 points in the second half. St. John's won its first tournament since the 2005 Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.
"Our defense and pressure became more aggressive in the second half," lavoin said of the comeback. "The five guards made the difference. We were opportunistic in transition in terms of making steals and converting into them into layups. With the five-guard lineup, we were able to get out on their shooters and get some runouts in the half-court as well."
Arizona State (3-2) was led by Ty Abbott's 22 points and got 10 from Trent Lockett. The sun Devils held a 51-45 lead with 6:02 to play, but St. John's responded with a 10-0 run that included four points from Stith. When ASU pulled within two at 55-53, Stith banked in a three-pointer that just beat the shot clock, and Hardy followed with a three-pointer moments later for a 61-55 lead.
Brownlee averaged 17.7 points and 4.3 rebounds over three tourney games and shot 66.7 percent (20-for-30) from the floor. Also named to the all-tournament team were Hardy (13.0 avg) and D.J. Kennedy (7.7 avg, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists). The Red Storm's next game is against Wagner at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena.