Friday night marked 23 years almost to the day since St. John's last included Monmouth on its schedule. November 23, 1990 to be exact.
Judging from the surprising performance Monmouth turned in at Carnesecca Arena Friday, St. John's may want to wait another 23 years before seeing the Hawks again.
On a night where St. John's looked ripe for an upset, the Johnnies needed a pair of 3-pointers from D'Angelo Harrison in the final 4:07 and another clutch three-ball from Phil Greene IV, the latter coming with just 1:04 to play, as St, John's held off upset-minded Monmouth, 64-54.
Greene finished with 22 points, Harrison added 15 and JaKarr Sampson chipped in with 14 for St. John's (3-1). Monmouth was led by Justin Robinson's 15 points.
After struggling to shake Monmouth (1-3) in the first half, the Red Storm looked to put the feisty Hawks away in the second half. St. John's did manage to build a 34-28 lead early in the second half after a three-ball by Harrison. But if you expected the Hawks to finally fold here, it didn't happen as Monmouth mounted a 12-4 spurt, capped by a 3-pointer by freshman point guard Justin Robinson, and not only did the Hawks have a second-half lead at 40-38 with 14:14 to play, but the 4,185 in attendance were sitting in stunned silence.
St. John's responded with a run that gave it a 50-41 lead with 7:05 to play after a jumper by Sampson. But St. John's just couldn't deliver the knockout punch it needed to take Monmouth out once and for all as the game Hawks stayed within striking distance until Greene IV delivered his dagger.
On an uneven offensive night for the Johnnies, Chris Obekpa flourished on the defensive end. The Johnnies 6-9 sophomore finished with nine blocks - two shy of his personal best - as St. John's logged 15 in the game, tying the school record set last season in a victory over Fordham. A bright spot on another ordinary night for the Johnnies.
Monmouth, which was picked to finish 11th and last in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Association this season, its' first in the league after moving over from the Northeast Conference, came in as heavy underdogs against the bigger and quicker Johnnies. But after St. John's built an early 14-6 lead after a three-pointer by Max Hooper, the Red Storm, as has become its habit this season, allowed its' overmatched opponent to hang around.
St. John's did play the bulk of the first 20 minutes without Harrison, who picked up his second foul at the 11:42 mark with St. John's holding just a 14-11 lead. Harrison went to the bench at that point and did not return for the remainder of the first half as the Red Storm went off at the half up just 28-26.