That's a little more like it.
After giving fans a small shiver of panic in a two-point, nail-biting exhibition victory over San Francisco State on Saturday, the story was completely different for St. John's two days later. The Johnnies had no such trouble with Division II Humboldt State in the Storm's final tune-up on Tuesday, defeating the Lumberjacks, 106-39, at Carnesecca Arena.
From the opening tip, St. John's was much better in all facets than it was in Saturday's exhibition. Notably, Steve Lavin's Red Storm were attentive on the defensive side of the ball, holding Humboldt St. to just 19% from the field. Just minutes into the game, Lavin switched the Johnnies from a man-to-man defensive scheme into its familiar match-up zone, making it nearly impossible for Humboldt St. to get clean looks.
By halftime, the Red Storm led by 32 points (47-15) behind God`sgift Achiuwa's 12 first half points and D`Angelo Harrison's nine. The advantage was large early and often, and the Red Storm never looked back.
"We knew we had to come in and play hard. Last game, we didn't play up to our potential," Sir`Dom Pointer said. "We have to play hard every single game, whether it's Wisconsin or San Francisco State. We went into last game thinking we were going to blow [San Francisco State] out. It was different today."
In fact, Tuesday was Achiuwa's night at Carnesecca. The redshirt senior, who sat out the entirety of last season, dominated the paint against the inferior Humboldt St. defenders, scoring 24 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in just 17 minutes. There was no answer for the big man.
"I'm really excited and happy to be back," Achiuwa said. "I try to do the little things that Coach [Lavin] asks me to do."
Though the Lumberjacks were a significantly less talented cast than was San Francisco State, the Johnnies showed noticeable improvement since its first outing. Offensively, St. John's was more cohesive in halfcourt sets, often looking to get the ball inside. They finished with 22 team assists, a stat Lavin would call "sharing the sugar."
"The 22 assists against nine turnovers was an indication of our team's willingness to make the extra pass," Lavin said.
St. John's will need that ball movement this season as it will try to get its perimeter shooters open looks. One hopeful beneficiary of the addition of Rysheed Jordan and the Storm's deep backcourt will be Harvard transfer Max Hooper, who went 4-8 from long range on Tuesday.
"Like a number of sophomores, [JaKarr] is still learning and growing," Lavin mentioned. "These first two games were instructive for him."
Chris Obekpa once again did not suit up as he continues to serve his suspension for a violation of University policy. The sophomore center has been practicing with the team and is expected to return this week.
Now, the focus for the highly-anticipated Red Storm turns to the season opener, which will be played Friday against #20 Wisconsin in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Johnnies' preparedness for that game seemed in question on Saturday evening, but the sentiment has turned in Queens.
The 67-point thrashing of Humboldt St. means nothing in the record books or for season standings, but everything for St. John's confidence heading into the tough nonconference test.
"During these next four days, we'll focus on what we need to improve on," Lavin said. "We will try to give ourselves the best chance to compete on Friday."
More from Rumble In The Garden:
- Game thread, TV info: St. John's Red Storm vs Humboldt State Lumberjacks
- St. John's vs. Humboldt State Exhibition Preview
- NHB Pod: recapping preseason debuts for St. John's + Rutgers
- Stat takeaways - St. John's 82, SF State 80 (exhibition)
- Harrison's late jumper allows St. John's to escape D-II SF State, 82-80