St. John’s starts their season with a blowout win over Merrimack, 97-72.
The final score was what it should have been. The Red Storm were 20.5 points favorites and won by 25. However, we got a glimpse into what may be issues at least early on — turnovers, opposing zone defenses, and bench scoring.
Last we saw St. John’s in a meaningful game, the Johnnies weren’t able to capitalize on a 17-point lead against Villanova in the Big East Tournament. However, a lot — and maybe enough — has changed in eight months. The Red Storm effectively rolled eight deep for most of last season, limiting how much pressing they could actually do.
Then David Jones and Andre Curbelo walked onto St. John’s campus. The Red Storm added a pair of talented freshmen in AJ Storr and Kolby King. Rafael Pinzon is healthy ( fingers crossed). Julian Champagnie and Aaron Wheeler moved on to bigger and better things. What we’re seemingly left with is ten athletic guys who love defending and moving the ball.
But that’s all things to hopefully look forward to.
Tonight, both St. John’s and Merrimack appeared to struggle with the pace in the first half with both teams turning the ball over 15 times. Both teams capitalized effective off of the turnovers, but the Red Storm retained an edge having 22 points off turnovers to Merrimack’s 15.
Curbelo in particular may have been too aggressive trying to create open looks for others leading the way with 4 first half turnovers. However, the high risk passes also come with some good looking assists, of which Curbelo had 4 before the half.
Joel Soriano had a strong first half showing. In only ten minutes of play, the Junior big man nearly snagged a double-double with 8 points (4-5 FG) and 8 rebounds. Soriano’s defense played a large part in holding Merrimack to 6 of 11 at the rim.
Behind Soriano’s strong play, the Red Storm went into the half up 51-30.
Down big, Merrimack mixed in an extended 2-3 zone. While it wasn’t enough to make the game competitive, it looks like it’ll be a wrinkle teams throw at the Johnnies until they can consistently start burning teams from deep. Merrimack’s zone turned the Red Storm’s aggressive first half offensive into a more timid, ball-holding offense.
The zone defense by an inferior Merrimack team held St. John’s scoreless for near three minutes, and gave Merrimack a turnover differential advantage after the half. St. John’s turned the ball over 14 times in the second half, whereas Merrimack did a better job cleaning it up with only 6.
Merrimack’s stalling of the Red Storm offense is most glaring when looking at how the Johnnies’ bench handled Merrimack’s defense. The St. John’s bench only had 8 points on 7shots in the second half, half of which came in the last two minutes of garbage time.
A 12-0 run by St. John’s got the fans back into the game after Merrimack was seemingly going to make it a closer game than it should have been. The run was capped off by a beautiful sequence of Jones getting the hockey assist passing to Posh Alexander who gave it to Soriano for a thunderous dunk.
The deep bench, albeit with no walk-ons, came into the game with 2 minutes to go, and the Red Storm pick up their first win of the season, 97-72.
St. John’s takes on the Lafayette Leopards on Saturday at 6:00 PM at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s Red Storm
David Jones: 21 points (8-16 FG, 5-12 3PT), 10 rebounds, 4 assists
Montez Mathis: 16 points (5-6 FG, 3-4 3PT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Posh Alexander: 14 points (5-9 FG, 0-2 3PT), 3 rebounds, 5 assists
Jordan Minor: 19 points (7-11 FG), 7 rebounds, 2 assists
Jordan Derkack: 15 points (5-9 FG, 0-2 3PT), 8rebounds, 4 assists