In a game that had no affect on official standings or statistics, St. John's and its fanbase received valuable input on its new-look collection of talent. Expectations entering tonight's exhibition match-up with Division II CW Post were simple. The players and staff agreed: If the guys played hard, executed, and had fun, the night was to be deemed a success.
The Red Storm did all three on this night. More importantly, they learned a bit about themselves in the process, despite missing their head coach Steve Lavin, recovering from cancer surgery, and assistant coach Rico Hines, recovering surgery after an Achilles tear sustained last week in practice.
It took about a half for the young Johnnies to running. But once the offensive attack got going, there was no looking back. St. John's ultimately beat the Pioneers 110-80 in a game defined by fast pace, effortless interior access, and ball movement.
In all, St. John's had six players score in double figures in the new-look Red Storm's first live game action. Fittingly (and for Johnnies fans, thankfully), the sextet who accumulated ten points or more were the six highly anticipated newcomers to the program.
Guard D'Angelo Harrison finished at an even 20 points when the final buzzer had sounded, but struggled a bit with his shot. A 29% (2-7) night from three-point range doesn't meet Harrison's standards or those placed on him by the coaching staff. Assistant Rico Hines, resting after his injury, has said Harrison could be one of the top shooters in the nation.
Harrison defined the value of tonight's effort from the Johnnies after the game ended. "We're learning to play together," he said. "I feel like we got closer as a group today."
Moe Harkless (14 points), Nurideen Lindsey (16 pts), and Sir'Dominic Pointer (12 pts) made up half of the six double-digit scorers. Harkless' athleticism and Lindsey's ability to swiftly weave through the lane backs up much of the hype that has been associated with their names.
God'sGift Achiuwa, who will undoubtedly see enough court time to please any grade school league parent, showed St. John's fans that there's a lot to look forward to down low in the future. Scoring a team-high 21 points and grabbing 9 rebounds, he proved that production can be his friend. Draped by "God is on our side!" chants throughout the evening, Achiuwa seems to be the early fan favorite in Queens.
He was even characterized by his teammates as a "manchild." Look out, world.
But the most impressive and, to be frank, surprising performance of the evening was that of Chicago-native Phil Greene. As both a recruit and as a player thus far in practice, Greene hasn't been talked about much. Get used to talking about this young man. The freshman guard racked up 20 points and shot an astounding 80% from the field in 27 minutes.
Maybe a few months in New York has given Greene the opportunity to enroll in the Mariano Rivera School of Teammate Attribution. "My teammates got me open shots, which opened up the three," he reiterated. "[They] did an excellent job of penetrating and kicking."
Give yourself some credit, Phil. You certainly won me over.
As expected, head coach Steve Lavin didn't make an appearance in Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday. Still recovering from prostate cancer surgery, his presence is missed. The team continues to work diligently in finding ways to improve on a daily basis. They're not sitting and waiting.
When asked who will be credited with tonight's win, assistant and stand-in head coach Mike Dunlap responded honestly. "Lav gets it, no question there. I drink the bad beer and he gets the champagne."
If there's one thing to take away from the exhibition, it's the Red Storm's knack to put points on the board. With raging athleticism and deceptive size, the Johnnies could certainly surprise some people this year.
"Tonight felt really good," said Harrison. "But we have to keep working and moving forward."
Well, on we go. St. John's will host St. Mary (MD) in its second and final exhibition game at Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday, November 1st. There will be more postgame and media links tomorrow.