In a battle of youth versus experience, youth won, as the St. John's beat Florida Gulf Coast, 79-68, Saturday night at Carnesecca Arena.
Sophomore D'Angelo Harrison scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to lead St. John's. Sophomore Sir'Dominic Pointer added a career-high 15 points and led the Red Storm with eight rebounds and six assists.
Bernard Thompson led the Eagles with 20 points.
"The offense just came to me tonight," Pointer said. "When I play [defense], the offense will come . . . I'm going to take what the defense gives me."
"He is a high-energy guy," teammate Felix Balamou said of Pointer. "He's always on the boards. Playing hard. I saw him play in high school and it was the same thing."
"He does things in practice and for stretches in games, so we're not surprised," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said of Pointer. "But he put it all together tonight . . . He seemed to be omnipresent on the court."
St. John's (4-2) followed the same formula it did Wednesday against Holy Cross. In both games, the Red Storm overcame slow starts to tie it at the half before pulling away and securing a double-digit victory.
Florida Gulf Coast (4-3) returned all five of its starters from last season and nearly all of its production. The Eagles beat Miami earlier this season.
St. John's had four freshmen play significant minutes Saturday, and no upperclassmen saw any minutes.
It was Florida Gulf Coast's fourth game in six days. It's hard to know whether the difference in the second half was tired legs or St. John's better execution.
The Eagles led by as many as 11 in the first half at 25-14 with just under nine minutes left. That's when St. John's freshman Balamou, starting for the first time, took an elbow from Sherwood Brown. Balamou fell to the floor, his nose bloodied by the contact, and a video review led to a technical foul on Brown.
Balamou returned to the game, and his alley-oop slam off a feed from Harrison cut the deficit to two. St. John's got another transition basket just before the horn to complete an 18-7 run to tie it at 32 at halftime.
"That's our brother," Pointer said of Balamou. "When he got hit, it gave us a little extra motivation to play harder. We're not a dirty team and we don't like the other team to be dirty. As soon as it happened -- not just because he got hit, but because we were down -- we wanted to play harder. It fueled the fire."
St. John's half-court offense struggled for most of the game and the Red Storm settled for long jumpers. And FGCU's defense was able to keep Harrison from going crazy.
"They knew where D'Angelo was at all times and crowded him," Lavin said. "He never got a comfortable look until the second half. They did a good job of mixing up their defenses."
When St. John's could get out and run, it was a different story. The Red Storm brought the crowd to life with several emphatic fast-break dunks, including one by Pointer that capped a 9-0 run in the second half and gave St. John's a 53-45 lead.
St. John's shot 55 percent from the field but was undistinguished on the boards. Each team had 31 rebounds.
"We need to improve on rebounding," Lavin said. "There are going to be times when we're undersized. We have to do it collectively; it can't just be one guy.
"We're still a work in progress," he added. "But I'm pleased with our ability to fight back in games."