Chris Mullin always talks about how 'experiences' will help improve and develop this young St. John's roster.
And that's exactly what Saturday was at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The Johnnies were out-matched in their first Big East road game, as they were handled by one of the most improved teams in the Big East, the Providence Friars, losing 83 to 65 in Rhode Island Saturday afternoon.
Yankuba Sima had 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and eight rebounds while playing an excellent second half of basketball. Amar Alibegovic also was solid off the bench, scoring 10 points, while Durand Johnson added eight points. Federico Mussini, three points, could not handle the length and strength of Friars guard Kris Dunn and Kassoum Yakwe was very limited. Balamou added 11 points and had the assignment of guarding Dunn.
With Mullin switching up the defensive alignments to force the Friars to beat them from the perimeter, the Red Storm jumped out to a quick 18 to 11 lead before the second media timeout. But Dunn (26 points, six assists and nine rebounds) and company responded with a flurry of quick buckets in transition and got hot from long range, sparking an 8-0 run with 9:30 remaining.
The Johnnies were dominated by the Friars crisp passing (nine assists on 15 field goals), terrific three-point shooting (seven threes) and ability to get out in transition (11 fast break points) for the rest of the first stanza. Sima battled foul trouble and the rest of the freshman could not settle in, which gave Ed Cooley's team the 12-point advantage at the break.
In the second frame, the Johnnies fell behind by 17 until Sima scored six of eight points for the visitors to cut the lead down to 10 with less than 12 minutes remaining. They were competitive with a bigger lineup consisting of Sima, Malik Ellison, Alibegovic, Balamou and Johnson and the Friars helped keep them in the game with mental mistakes (including a missed dunk by Ben Bentil and 17 turnovers) and poor free throw shooting (69 percent overall).
The Red Storm were within six with just under 10 minutes remaining, but that's when it became Dunn's time to shine. The Wooden Award candidate knocked down a couple of threes and made some incredible plays to attack the lane.
St. John's shot 37 percent from the floor, turned the ball over only 13 times and were physical in the paint, but Providence has more talent, better match-ups and their quickness and speed is on another level.
Bentil (20 points and nine rebounds) and Bullock (13 points and eight rebounds) were the Robin to Dunn's Batman while Kyron Cartwright had a career night, scoring 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
The schedule doesn't get any easier from here on out for the Red Storm (7-8, 0-2) as they will host one of the best teams in the conference, Xavier, on Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena.