Thursday, November 20, 2014

St. John's outlasts LIU on career night from Pointer

Sir'Dominic Pointer was catalyst for St. John's, with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks in Red Storm's 66-53 defeat of LIU Brooklyn. (Photo courtesy of St. John's University)

Sir'Dominic Pointer has seen his first three seasons at St. John's marked by flashes of brilliance, but mostly, through no fault of his own, maddening inconsistency. Throughout his tenure in a Red Storm uniform, however, his teammates and coaches have remained steadfast in their support and belief in a breakthrough.

Therefore, when the Detroit native motored his way to a near-triple-double in St. John's 66-53 victory over LIU Brooklyn Wednesday night, it came as no surprise to those closest to him.

"When Dom's playing like this," his teammate and fellow senior classmate D'Angelo Harrison said of Pointer's 18-point, 8-rebound, 6-blocked shot effort that allowed the Red Storm to improve to 3-0 on the young season, "we're going to be an unbelievable team. His numbers showed that tonight."

Pointer, whose near-perfect 8-for-10 shooting from the field only enhanced his spectacular stat line, made all the right plays at all the right times before a crowd of 3,733 at Carnesecca Arena against an LIU Brooklyn team that was the last of the 351 teams in Division I to contest their season opener, a fact the Blackbirds proved irrelevant in the opening minutes when they jumped out to a 17-12 lead with 11:30 remaining in the first half.

Yet, there was Pointer, starting the rally with a mid-range jumper to cut the deficit to three 38 seconds later, then captivating the crowd with his first of three dunks in the opening stanza to pull the Red Storm even with LIU at 21 apiece with 6:12 to play before the intermission. The two teams traded baskets for the next several minutes before the Motor City's native son fed walk-on Myles Stewart for an uncontested three in the left corner to put St. John's ahead 26-23. On the ensuing possession, Pointer stripped freshman point guard Elvar Fridriksson and tomahawked the ball through the net, extending the lead to five. Pointer would repeat this two minutes later when he forced a steal on Martin Hermannsson in the open court before his third dunk gave St. John's a 30-25 lead with 1:35 to go in the opening half.

Trailing 32-26 going into the locker room, the Blackbirds would fight back with seven unanswered points to retake a one-point lead, but once again, Pointer responded, this time scooping up an offensive rebound from a Felix Balamou miss and stuffing it home with 17:40 left in regulation to put the Red Storm ahead 34-33, whipping the former Alumni Hall into a frenzy.

St. John's would never relinquish that lead, but putting the game away proved to be difficult, as LIU remained within six points after Landon Atterberry, who posted 12 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort, made it a two-possession game with 4:02 to play. The Red Storm went back to their hot hand on the next turn down the court, and Pointer calmly buried a jumper to extend St. John's lead to 58-50 before the home team effectively sealed the outcome when the Blackbirds missed all but one of their last twelve shots over the final 3:41. 

Harrison supported the winning cause with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Rysheed Jordan added 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, but fittingly, it was Pointer who provided the exclamation point in the last minute of play, with his fifth dunk of the night securing the final margin of victory.

"He strikes like a cobra," head coach Steve Lavin gushed of Pointer. "He's so gifted in those respects. I call him 'extraterrestrial.' He's just such a unique player, like a unicorn or a mermaid. Dom's one of my favorite players I've ever been associated with in 27 years, for a number of reasons."

For all the praise showered upon him, though, the star of the night admitted there was one flaw in his virtuoso performance.

"I feel like I have to rebound more," Pointer matter-of-factly stated. "At the end of the day, I'm the second-biggest guy on the floor."

He may have been the second-biggest in stature, but Pointer left by far the biggest impression as St. John's limited LIU Brooklyn to 30 percent shooting in their final tuneup before their Madison Square Garden debut next Wednesday against Richard Pitino and reigning NIT champion Minnesota.

"We had a couple of bright spots," Lavin cautioned, "but there's a long laundry list of problems we have to improve on. It took us four years to get to this place, and it feels good to just have a nucleus. I think we'll improve with each week."

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