It's games like this that make you think maybe St. John's really is back.

At first, it was ugly.

St. John's entered halftime shooting only 24 percent, trailing by double-figures and looking lifeless.

And then, whammo.

From the start of the second half, St. John's looked every bit the appearance of a team deserving of the No. 20 ranking in the AP poll.

Loose balls were chased after, shots were contested on defense and shots were finally made as the Red Storm used a big second-half comeback to beat Saint Mary's, 53-47, Friday night at Carnesecca Arena.

"Our team is always going to fight," guard D'Angelo Harrison said. "Coach [Steve Lavin] told us that we had to play harder. We weren't playing St. John's basketball. The second half was St. John's basketball."

It's the fifth straight win for St. John's, which is 9-1 for the first time since 2009-10.

Harrison led the Red Storm with 21 points. Sir'Dominic Pointer had 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Both played pivotal roles in the second half, when St. John's outscored Saint Mary's 35-14.

Pointer gave the Red Storm its first lead since the opening minutes when he hit two free throws with eight minutes left to make it 43-41. St. John's never trailed after that.

Saint Mary's had a chance late when big man Brad Waldow (26 points), who had dominated in the first half, drove to the lane with 20 seconds left and St. John's leading 50-47. But Waldow was double-teamed, forced to take a bad shot and missed. Phil Greene IV secured the rebound and was fouled. He made two free throws to seal it with 11 seconds left.

It was a horrible first half for the Red Storm. St. John's made only 6 of 25 shots, once trailed by 16 points and ended the half down 33-18. Waldow dominated in the paint and scored 19 points.

"It was a dramatic tale of two halves," Lavin said. "And that was a good thing for us."

Waldow was held to eight points in the second half. Waldow said the biggest difference in the second half was that Pointer helped out on him defensively. The Storm limited the Gaels (6-3) to 6-for-23 shooting in the second half, including 0-for-6 on threes.

"We came out slow today," Harrison said, "but we are going to carry the second-half momentum into the next game."