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St. John’s eager to begin Big East play

Conference play for St. John’s marks an opportunity to prove themselves.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The mood around Queens was somber following two disheartening defeats against LIU Brooklyn and Penn State.

Once again, it seemed that St. John’s was destined for yet another miserable basketball season.

That all changed in a matter of forty minutes. St. John’s took to the Carrier Dome hardwood and used a second-half surge to obliterate former Big East rival, Syracuse. Jim Boeheim’s heavily favored Orange were no match for the red hot Johnnies.

St. John’s breakthrough against Syracuse has a well-rested Red Storm bunch ready for Big East play.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

“Being antsy and enthusiastic is all good, but more important we got to be focused and execute.” Remarked Chris Mullin during Tuesday morning’s Big East coaches conference call. “It’s the balance of excitement, anticipation, and all of those other things, but going out and playing solid basketball is really the focus.”

If the contest against Syracuse is any indication of what to expect, these Johnnies can play solid basketball.

The Johnnies currently are shooting 41% from three-point territory, good for second in the Big East. Creighton currently occupies the one spot, converting on 45% of their three-point opportunities.

Arguably the most encouraging aspect of this St. John’s team is their unselfishness. They are third in the Big East, averaging about sixteen assists per contest.

Also, the Red Storm rank third in the nation for blocked shots, averaging seven per game. Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe lead the way in blocked shots on this team, as they both virtually average three per game. It is incredibly helpful to have multiple rim protectors that force opponents to work for baskets in close.

Hopefully the Johnnies will be able to use this momentum to move forward, as they navigate through a rigorous conference slate.

Four of the Johnnies next six opponents are ranked in the latest AP Poll. That slate begins Thursday against the 13th ranked Butler Bulldogs. After a brief trip to DePaul on New Year’s Day, the Red Storm will host undefeated Creighton. Shortly after that the Johnnies hit the road for bouts with Xavier and Georgetown. St. John’s will then return home for a date with reigning national champion Villanova.

Big East play will tell us all we want to know about the current Red Storm team. For better or for worse, that progress check is coming very soon.