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Ingram, Red Storm blow by Hurricanes, 77-74

Sunday proved to be the coming out party for Elijah Ingram, the freshman point guard for the St. John’s University men’s basketball team. The high school All-American out of St. Anthony’s (N.J.) scored a career-high 21 points, including 5-of-7 from three to lead the Red Storm to a thrilling 77-74 win over the University of Miami Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden.

Ingram, who was held scoreless through the first half, drilled his first three at the 9:23 mark of the first half to give St. John’s (11-6, 4-3) a 55-53 lead. Backcourt mate Marcus Hatten, who fed Ingram for the first shot, found the point guard again on the ensuing possession and, as he did moments earlier, held his arms aloft as Ingram put up another rainbow shot from behind the arc.

And as it had before, the ball tickled nothing but twine. “I’ve been encouraging Elijah to shoot when he’s open all year,” said head coach Mike Jarvis of his point guard, who has been gun-shy in recent games. “He’s started to really work on his shot in practice this week. Follow through, follow through, follow through.”

Hatten, who had his typically spectacular day, scoring 22 points with 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals, had no doubt in Ingram’s stroke.

“I guess this comes from trusting your teammates,” Hatten said. “Once he got it, I knew he was going to make it.”

Ingram scored 17 of 18 Red Storm points during a crucial second-half run, all but nullifying two missed front-end one-and-one opportunities by Hatten and the solid work of Miami standout Darius Rice (25 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists).

Miami (9-9, 2-5) retook the lead when Armondo Surratt (11 points, 5 assists) pickpocketed Ingram at mid-court and Rice scored at the 4:05 mark to make it 66-64. But Ingram answered again with back-to-back threes and a steal of his own, followed by a heads-up time-out at the 2:51 mark, giving St. John’s possession and a four-point lead.

“I didn’t really pay attention where I was shooting from,” Ingram said. “I was open. [Jarvis has] pretty much been on me in practice and games to shoot when I’m open.”

A three by Rice cut the Red Storm’s lead to three with 27.9 seconds remaining, but Ingram all but iced the game by hitting four clutch free throws in the waning moments.

St. John’s controlled most of the first half thanks to the inspired play of Hatten, as well as standout performances from sophomore Eric King and junior college transfer student Grady Reynolds, who got his first start of the season Sunday. King finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds, while Reynolds had 5 points and 6 rebounds.

Kyle Cuffe scored 9 points with 5 rebounds off the bench but managed just 1-of-9 shooting from the field. Grad student Anthony Glover also struggled from the field, going 1-for-6, finishing with 3 points and 2 rebounds in 24 minutes. Willie Shaw also struggled off the bench, playing just 12 minutes and shooting 1-for-6 with 4 points.

As St. John’s has in recent years, the Red Storm out-muscled Miami inside, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds and forcing 19 Hurricane turnovers. King and Reynolds were both active and effective defensively against Rice and James Jones (18 points, 4 rebounds), allowing Jarvis to employ a press for much of the game.

The Red Storm began to creep away from the Hurricanes in the first half using mini-runs and solid free throw shooting. A traditional three-point play by Hatten at 6:50 pushed the lead to nine, 30-21, before Miami, led by Jones, who scored his team’s final 10 points of the half, cut its deficit to five, 38-33, at the half.

After a date with the Boston College Eagles Wednesday, the Red Storm is back at home Saturday at Alumni Hall to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. They will then take on Villanova in Philadelphia Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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