It was a promising 3-0 start to the season for St. John's but the level of competition was raised another notch on Monday afternoon in the Maui Invitational as Chris Mullin's team lost to 19th ranked Vanderbilt, 92 to 55.
The Red Storm shot only 30 percent from the field and were led by Federico Mussini, who scored 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting and showed great promise attacking the rim. Graduate transfers Ron Mvouika and Durand Johnson combined to score just 18 points while Yankuba Sima had trouble with his touch around the rim, adding five points, three blocks and three boards.
Christian Jones, eight points and five rebounds, was fearless near the rim but struggled to finish against Vandy's three seven-footers, Damian Jones, Josh Henderson and Luke Kornet.
In the opening minutes, the Commodores found wide open shots on defensive lapses from St. John's and jumped out to 17-4 lead. Kevin Stalling's team excelled for the rest of the half with excellent three point shooting (eight in the first), good ball movement (13 assists on 19 field goals), terrific spacing (shot 54 percent from the field) and bigger, stronger players in the post (out-rebounding St. John's 27-12).
The Red Storm had difficulty creating shots offensively because of Vanderbilt's length and defensive prowess. They went into the break knocking down 27 percent of their shots and trailed 53-24.
While the Johnnies were still out-played and were out-matched physically, they showed more aggressiveness and improved composure in the second stanza. They also only turned the ball over a total of eight times, which is much improved from the 28 turnovers the unit had against Division II St. Thomas Aquinas in the preseason.
The Commodores are one of the strongest offensive teams in the nation and are underrated on the other end of the floor but their balance is what truly stands out. 12 of the 14 players that stepped on the court for Vanderbilt scored and six of those players finished with at least nine points. Kornet led the way with 13 points and seven rebounds while also throwing down some monster dunks in the paint.
Vanderbilt finished with 53 percent shooting, 12 threes and dominated the Johnnies on the glass, 49 to 26.
St. John's (3-1) will be back in action again Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. as Mullin's squad will face off against the loser of the Indiana (3-0) versus Wake Forest (2-1) battle.