In the 2021-2022 St. John’s Red Storm men’s basketball exhibition debut, the Johnnies took care of business early by winning 107-43 and gave the fanbase a generous look at the team’s depth.
As one might expect against the Division-III Baruch College Bearcats, the Red Storm’s pressure was overwhelming, the shiny new bigs got clean looks at the rim, and the Johnnies ran away with it early.
The Bearcats were inundated by Mike Anderson’s 40 minutes of hell. St. John’s depth and perpetual pressure lead to the Bearcats turning the ball over 23 times with eight Johnnies finishing the game with at least one steal and Montez Mathis leading the way with 5. The early 10-second violations by Baruch also speaks to the collective team pressure St. John’s was exerting.
In addition to the up and down pace, when the Red Storm offense did get into the half court, the new bigs – Joel Soriano, Aaron Wheeler, Esahia Nyiwe, and O’Mar Stanley – feasted on the smaller Baruch. With no Bearcat over 6’6”, Soriano had a particularly standout performance with 17 points (6/6 FG) and of the eight rotation newcomers may have made the best first impression. Additionally, something the St. John’s fanbase has not experienced for a while, The Red Storm successfully crashed the offensive board pulling down 17 offensive rebounds.
Despite the large change in roster coming into this season, some things, as the old adage goes, stay the same. Preseason All-American Julian Champagnie is still a joy to watch on the basketball court. Champagnie scored a team-leading 19 points, on an efficient 7 of 13 from the floor; he got some late run as he is working his way back from a wrist injury sustained during the NBA Draft process.
While the takeaways from the game are largely positive, the thing to watch for against Mississippi Valley in a couple weeks is the turnovers by the Red Storm. While the Johnnies prevailed in the turnover battle 23 to 18, which Alexander, Soriano, and Mathis contributed 3 apiece, is excessive particularly against this level of competition.
While the outcome of a game against a Division-III opponent should be assumed by St. John’s fans (save for the loss to St. Thomas Aquinas in 2015, 90-58), Coach Mike Anderson may have offered a glimpse into some of his rotation expectations and role responsibilities.
Coming into the season, there were questions regarding ball-handling when Posh Alexander was on the bench.
Senior Stef Smith comes in with some experience as a primary ballhandler at Vermont while freshman Rafael Pinzon was impressive in the role for Puerto Rico in the U19 World Cup. Dylan Addae-Wusu should factor into the equation when he returns from offseason ankle surgery.
At least against these Bearcats, Pinzon appeared to be the primary ballhandler when Alexander was off the floor. Pinzon finished with 10 points (4/7 FG, 1/4 3PT) and 2 assists. Pinzon appeared timid offensively in the first half only attempting three shots and creating zero assists. However, he settled into the role more in the second half and displayed a smooth spin move in the process for two of his second half points. He did also commit four fouls in the game.
With three minutes left in the game, walk-on freshman Jason Simpson and senior Jalen Rosemond entered the game and each joined in on the scoring soon thereafter.