Johnnie fans, it's a rebuilding year.
After an impressive upset victory over Syracuse at Madison Square Garden, St. John's failed to handle their business successfully against Incarnate Word (they just recently lost to Our Lady of the Lake) Friday night at Carnesecca Arena, snapping their three game winning streak with an 73 to 51 loss.
Yankuba Sima was the team's top player and the lone bright spot, as he scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and had spurts of excellence (four blocks and five boards) against the Cardinals small front line. Durand Johnson finished with 15 points and shot 5-of-12 from the field and the Johnnies' leading scorer coming into the match-up, Federico Mussini, added just seven points on 3-of-8 shooting and a single three.
Kassoum Yakwe continued to show his potential by putting up five points and blocking two shots while Ron Mvouika, zero points, had a poor showing with flat-footed defense and no offensive explosion. Coming off his 15-point performance against Cuse, Amar Alibegovic (six points and four boards) was held in check off the bench.
In front of a very thin crowd, the Red Storm began the game without any rhythm and energy on both ends of the floor, digging themselves into an early eight-point hole. The Cardinals found wide open shots on the perimeter, had success beating Mvouika off the dribble and pressured the Red Storm ball-handlers, which forced poor passes and mental mistakes.
Mullin's squad responded with a quick 11-0 run out of a timeout thanks to great paint play and rim protection from Sima, but the Cardinals flipped momentum back into their favor in the final four minutes to take a nine-point halftime lead. The Cardinals knocked down seven three's (50 percent) and only turned the ball over twice in the opening stanza while St. John's had nine giveaways and struggled to find any offensive help for Sima.
St. John's was even worse defensively in the second half. Incarnate Word had free lanes to the basket, had more intensity and continued to knock down their open threes. With their 42 percent shooting from the perimeter and stretch big men, the Cardinals were able to pull Sima and Yakwe away from the paint, opening up easy drives to the hoop and opportunities for second chance points.
Incarnate Word finished the match-up with 11 threes, 42 percent shooting from all areas of the floor, eight turnovers and 14 assists on 24 field goals. The Johnnies were out-rebounded by a Cardinals team that has just a single player over 6'8", they had a brutal showing from the free throw strike (41 percent) and continued to have issues with turnovers (15 total).
St. John's remained shorthanded even after the return of Malik Ellison, who scored five points in 11 minutes, as Felix Balamou sat out due to a foot injury.
The Red Storm (7-4) will now prepare for a match-up against Damon Lynn and a dangerous NJIT team (6-5) before taking the trip to Mohegan Sun to play a currently undefeated South Carolina squad.