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St. John's vs. Wagner: 32-point preseason loss acts as a positive

The Johnnies open their season Friday night against Wagner.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

St. John's uncorked an embarrassing performance against St. Thomas Aquinas in their opening preseason game but the team has spun the loss into positive as they prepare for Wagner on Friday night.

"Our sense of urgency has changed a lot," graduate student Durand Johnson said during the team's pre-game media availability on Thursday. "We're competing harder in practice and we're focusing on the defensive end of the floor a lot more."

With four freshman and multiple players coming off significant injuries, the Johnnies were shellshocked by St. Thomas Aquinas' pressure defense as they tried to adjust to the level of competition and shake off the rust. The Spartans were ready to play and the Red Storm were given what has now turned into a wake up call.

"I thought it was a great thing," Ron Mvouika said when he was asked what he can take away from the preseason. "I mean you lose by 30 points against a Division II team it's never good to swallow or even think about, but that game will help us in the non-conference and Big East.

"It was a slap in the face. We got it out of the way. It didn't count, so now everybody including coach knows what we're about to face all season. That was something that didn't look good and didn't feel good but at the end of the day we now know what not to do."

And that's all head coach Chris Mullin can ask. This team's level of success won't be measured by how many games they win or how many upsets they pull, but by their improvement and progressions over the course of a long season. It's a rebuilding process and the number one aspect of eventually turning the team into a winner is player development.

"The biggest job I have is to stay focused despite what is going on around us at times," Mullin said. "It's about daily improvement, daily habits and the fundamentals. The first game as a whole was overwhelming but I thought the next two practices set the tone for a better environment to function."

While the game remains in the back of their minds and will serve as a measure of improvement in a couple months, the team also realizes that they have an athletic, young, hungry opponent waiting for them to tip-off the new season.

"I'm not thinking about it anymore anyways," Mvouika said. "It's done."