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NEW YORK (AP) — St. John's is in a place they haven't been in well over two decades, but Red Storm coach Steve Lavin isn't jumping up and down in celebration. The No. 17 ranked St. John's beat Long Beach State 66-49 on Monday night to improve to 10-1.
The last time the Red Storm began a season 10-1 was the 1990-91. That team finished the season with a 23-9 record before losing to then-No. 2 Duke in the Midwest Regional Final.
"We haven't accomplished anything of significance," Lavin said.
Chris Obekpa scored 16 points and had eight rebounds and seven blocked shots to lead St. John's.
"It wasn't a work of art. We manufactured a win," Lavin said. "What makes this team special was on display. They find a way to rally and win close games."
Sir'Dominic Pointer had 11 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks. Phil Greene IV chipped in 16 points. D'Angelo Harrison, the Big East's leading scorer with a 19.8 points per game average, finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
"We're a senior (laden) group," Pointer said. "We have people who can step up. (Harrison just) had an off night."
Long Beach State lost its fourth straight and fell to 5-8. Mike Caffey was the only 49er in double figure scoring with 10 points.
The first ever meeting between the Big East and Big West programs was not one for either team's highlight reel. St. John's made 27 of 60 from the field, while Long Beach State shot just 32.3 percent from the field.
Both teams were especially cold from beyond the arc as the 49ers only made 7 of 22 from 3-point range, and the Red Storm missed 12 of 15.
"It was a game where both teams were out of sync offensively," Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said. "They were able to force us to turn the ball over in the second half and get some baskets off of their defense. I thought that was the difference."
After trailing for much of the first half, Long Beach State took a 28-27 lead on Tyler Lamb's 3-pointer at 3:27 of the second half. Following Lamb's basket, St. John's went on a 9-0 run to take a 36-28 lead.
The 49ers did cut St. John's lead to seven, 44-37, on Eric McKnight's dunk with 7:28 left. But the Red Storm went on a 22-11 run to close out the game.
"I felt for the entire game our defense was exceptional," Lavin said. "Our defense held serve until our offense (came) in the second half. The defense allowed us to sustain a lead until the offense (came up)."
St. John's was shorthanded. Rysheed Jordan was at home with a stomach virus, according to a St. John's spokesman. The sophomore guard is expected to return to practice later this week and will be available for Sunday's game against Tulane at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Lavin said Jordan did not feel well prior to St. John's 53-47 win over Saint Mary's (Ca.) on Dec. 19. The next day Jordan saw doctors who treated him with intravenous fluids, and he is resting with his family in Philadelphia.
In 10 games this season, Jordan averaged 14.5 points and 4.1 assists in 30.3 minutes as the Red Storm's sixth man. Without Jordan, starters Greene, Harrison and Jamal Branch received more playing time than usual.
"This team...it's been a gradual progression (of) resourcefulness, ingenuity, problem solving. Now we can make adjustments on the fly," Lavin said. "(It was) one of (Branch's) better games. (He) was outstanding. He really orchestrated our offensive attack."
ST. JOHN'S: The Red Storm entered the game having won 17 of 20 regular season games.
LONG BEACH STATE: Monday night marked the third straight game in which the 49ers played a team ranked in the Top 25.
ST. JOHN'S: Hosts Tulane on Dec. 28 in the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at Barclays Center.
LONG BEACH STATE: Visits Syracuse on Dec. 28.
QUOTABLE: "Dom Pointer is a kid I have a special relationship with. He's outside the box. We call him Batman, Spiderman. He's a superhero."--Steve Lavin on Sir'Dominic Pointer.