NEW YORK -- St. John's coach Steve Lavin knew why his Red Storm were able to withstand a big second-half rally from Columbia and still get a win.
"I shared with the team after the game that I was happy with the maturity that was on display at end of game," he said after St. John's beat Columbia 65-59 on Saturday in the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at Barclays Center. "Last year or the year before, this was the type of game we'd lose when a team would make a big run on us. I was impressed with our poise and purpose to go on a run of our own and salt the victory away."St. John's seemed to be on its way to a comfortable win, leading 48-34 with 14:16 to play. But the Lions went on a 17-2 run to take a brief lead.The Red Storm followed Columbia's big run by scoring the next nine points -- four by JaKarr Sampson -- to regain control.Columbia did get within four points twice, the last at 63-59 with 16 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Meiko Lyles."We did build a 14-point lead," said D'Angelo Harrison, who led St. John's with 15 points. "We have to push that lead to 20 but we didn't. We were happy with the way we finished."Orlando Sanchez had 12 points and nine rebounds and Sampson added 11 points for the Red Storm (9-3), who have won three straight and five of six with the loss to No. 2 Syracuse."I'm pleased our team is maturing to the point of winning a game like this," Lavin said with Big East Conference play starting Tuesday at Xavier. "Are we satisfied, complacent? No. We have a long way to go in a number of areas but this was a step in the right direction."Grant Mullins had 17 points for Columbia (7-6), which had won two straight and three of four.The Lions used the 17-2 run to take a 51-50 lead -- their first since the game's first 3 minutes -- with 7:25 to play. They hit three 3-pointers as they scored 13 straight points after St. John's had taken their biggest lead of the game, 48-34, with 14:16 left.Columbia had given a scare to then-No. 1 Michigan State in November, trailing by a couple of points with minutes to go before losing 62-53."It's hard to guard us the whole 40 minutes," Columbia coach Kyle Smith said. "We took advantage of some breaks and got the lead and then they made the plays they do well."It was St. John's 13th consecutive win in the series which the Red Storm lead 18-7.St. John's came into the game leading the nation with 9.6 blocked shots per game. The Red Storm had eight Saturday with Sampson and Sir'Dominic Pointer getting three each."I learned it's hard to finish around the rim against guys like that," said Mullins, who was 5 for 14 from the field including 3 of 7 from 3-point range. "Personally I should have started to (penetrate) earlier in the game. I had to adjust to their length.'The Red Storm hurt themselves at the free throw line missing 12 of 26 attempts.