Looking to build on their successful nine-point win over Wagner, St. John's (2-0) took down UMBC (0-2), 75-53, at Carnesecca Arena behind the trio of Federico Mussini, Durand Johnson and Ron Mvouika. Mussini, 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting, led the Johnnies in scoring for the second straight game with Johnson pitching in 15 points along with Mvouika adding 16 points.
Yankuba Sima, eight points and four blocks, was in foul trouble for most of the evening while Christian Jones, seven points and seven rebounds, provided toughness and solid contributions at both ends of the floor.
The Johnnies struggled with UMBC's half court pressure defense in the first half, turning the ball over 10 times, but shot an efficient 46 percent from the floor thanks to excellent ball movement and spacing. Mullin's unit also had terrific defensive energy in the first frame as they blocked six shots, found themselves diving for 50-50 balls and limited the Retrievers to just 24 percent shooting.
With Johnson (8:43 left) and Sima (4:37 left) having to head to the bench for an extended period of time, St. John's only held a nine point lead at the half despite dominating UMBC in bench points, 15-0, and seeming to be in firm control of the game.
Johnson, who continued to show rusty play in the opening half when he was on the court, scored all 15 of his points after the break as he showed the ability to create his own opportunities off the dribble. The graduate transfer had eight points in eight minutes to start the second half, which countered a 9-2 UMBC run that had the Retrievers within three.
St. John's found solid looks within their motion offense (shot 52 percent from the field) and attacked their way to the free throw line where they shot a much improved 82 percent. While the Johnnies are still battling turnover problems (18 total), the unselfishness of the team and the improved playmaking ability of Johnson, Mvouika and Mussini is promising.
The team's defense has also been outstanding early in the season. They held UMBC to just 24 percent shooting from the field.
UMBC's Rodney Elliott put up 16 points and Joe Sherburne dropped 16 points but Jourdan Grant, five points on 2-for-6 shooting, was unable to get anything going after scoring a team-high 20 points against Wake Forest on Friday.
Next up for the Red Storm will be a showdown with Rutgers (2-0) in the first edition of the Gavitt Games Thursday night at Carnesecca Arena.