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Chris Obekpa’s offensive confidence is growing and it’s helping St. John’s at just the right time. For the second game this season the 6-foot-9 freshman, known more for his “SportsCenter” highlight blocks, provided big shots in the closing minutes of a tight game on his terms.
“I won’t force it though,” Obekpa said. “If it’s open, I’ll take it.”
He stood true to those words with the Red Storm men’s basketball team leading NJIT by just one point with less than 3:00 to play. He grabbed the ball at the high post, faked a handoff and went in for a two-hand power slam. A possession later, he stepped out and buried an elbow job that sent the Red Storm to a 57-49 win over NJIT Saturday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena. He had a similar jumper in the season-opening win over Detroit.
It is the Red Storm’s fourth straight home win. DeAngelo Harrison scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half. Freshman JaKarr Sampson recorded his first career triple double with 15 points and 17 rebounds. Obekpa had eight points, five blocks and six rebounds.
“That just energized the whole team,” Sampson said of Obekpa’s dunk. “It got us hyped, got us going.”
St. John’s was in a tight game because of another turnover-filled and poor-shooting first half, a trend the team can’t seem to buck. The Red Storm (6-2) let Highlander stars Ryan Woods, who had 16 points and connected on four treys, and Chris Flores (10 points) have their way in the first half. NJIT (4-3) built a 14-point lead early in the second half.
“They just torched the nets, carved us up like a side of French fries,” St. John’s Coach Steve Lavin said.
He and his players know they need to put an entire game together when they get to Big East play. Obekpa admitted he and his team may have been looking past NJIT.
St. John’s remembered who they were in the second half, going on to tie a school record with 12 blocks and dominating the paint and the glass. They ripped off a 17-2 run to grab a 42-40 lead with 12:33 remaining in the game.
“We mentioned if we are at Syracuse or playing at Villanova and you spot a team like that a 14-point lead it makes it more difficult,” Lavin said. “Being at home this game, we were able to come back. Eventually it’s going to burn you.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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