William & Mary head coach Tony Shaver opened his post-game remarks perfectly: "Twenty good minutes, twenty bad minutes."
For St. John's, the exact opposite can be said. After struggling on both ends of the floor in the first half, the Red Storm found its form in the second half. Led by Nurideen Lindsey's offensive will, the Johnnies turned a 7-point halftime deficit into a 74-59 victory over the CAA's William & Mary Tribe on Monday night. The team's attack was balanced. Lindsey had 19 points, Maurice Harkless and God`sgift Achiuwa each had 17, and D`Angelo Harrison chipped in 14.
Steve Lavin continued to recover from prostate cancer surgery and wasn't at Carnesecca Arena to see his new-look squad get its first official win in person. Guided by associate head coach Mike Dunlap, St. John's second half annihilation made it seem like their head man was in Queens, guiding a furious comeback.
Last year's team saw the heights of its success when it wreaked havoc in the backcourt - against Duke, Pitt, and others. Tonight, we saw it against William & Mary. St. John's and Sir`Dominic Pointer's freaky wingspan caused 17 turnovers and turned nearly every one into easy points.
More on the game, and the game's star, 2nd half Nurideen Lindsey, below the fold.
But the youthful Red Storm was not ready to play in the first half of their first official collegiate game together. Whether it was pregame jitters, overflowing adrenaline, or simply poor execution, St. John's was unable to match the Tribe's intensity out of the gate.
Halftime discussions with fans were built around excuse-making. They aren't defending the perimeter well. They can't shoot. They are out of control.
The allegations were all true. William & Mary's star forward Quinn McDowell was constantly receiving and converting open looks. The Johnnies weren't only missing jumpers, but were missing the rim altogether. Shot selection was poor.
It may have been a Lavin Skype visit in the locker room or the inspiring performance from the local grade school ballers, but something changed.
Nurideen Lindsey changed.
After falling behind the Tribe 35-26 early in the second half, the Johnnies got the spark it needed. St. John's patented 3/4-court pressure began to cause turnovers and create fast-break opportunities, getting Lindsey into the open court. And we finally saw what Lindsey can really do. He sped by and around defenders. He twisted his way to the basket. He skipped around defenders. He blew by William and Mary.
Lindsey, who finished with a team-high 19 points, took the game over and, in doing so, electrified the rejuvenated Carnesecca Arena crowd.
"We were a little tight in the first half. We didn't come out ready to play," the sophomore guard said. "Defensively, we definitely turned it up a notch in the second half and got more into the game mentally."
One of the overwhelming truth from the two exhibition victories is how visibly athletic Lavin's newcomers truly are. That athleticism was once again on display Monday - on a whole other level.
The days of envying the opposition's quickness and jumping ability are over. Your team is now the envied.
The Tribe's McDowell (who gave a respectable showing in the first ever Quinn v. Quinn battle royale) finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-13 shooting, but was not nearly as effective after the break. St. John's didn't allow William & Mary to comfortably get into their half-court offense, draining all of the Tribe's energy in the process. Mike Dunlap's halftime adjustments proved to be key.
"I have to hand it to [Coach Dunlap] for what he did at halftime," special adviser Gene Keady said afterwards. "He didn't get on anybody. He was calm and cool."
St. John's should get used to Dunlap for the immediate future. It was reported today by Vin Parise that Lavin aims to return sometime in early December. With or without their head coach, the Red Storm should celebrate this win. There's only one "first." And you can bet they're satisfied that they did it Lavin-style.
"It's definitely a good feeling," Lindsey remarked. "We want to carry the second half momentum over to Wednesday's game."
That's right. St. John's will have a quick turnaround as they are set to host Lehigh at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday night.
This team will take every bit of experience it can get.