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St. John's overcomes sluggish start to defeat Humboldt State 95-83 in exhibition play

It wasn't pretty at all in the first half.

John Alber

It wasn't pretty. Usually, we would finish "but it was a win", but one expects more from a senior-led team in their first game, even an exhibition. St. John's won 95-83, led by 28 points from D`Angelo Harrison, 22 points from Chris Obekpa - who hit the triple-double with 10 rebounds and 11 blocks on the afternoon. Rysheed Jordan had 19 points, 18 in the second half.

Jamal Branch had five assists for the Johnnies, and Harrison added nine rebounds.

For some reason, St. John's has had an issue with cruising into games, playing without the needed intensity - missing the fact that basketball is a game where inferior talent with skill can challenge a "better" team.

The first half ended with St. John's down 45-44, with lackluster energy leading the way and turnovers following right behind. Chris Obekpa and D'Angelo Harrison led the positives with scoring, blocked shots, and the team's free throw shooting was solid.

But the transition defense was porous, the pressure didn't slow Humboldt State down, the point guards struggled, and the team simply didn't have the energy, rebounding or shooting to knock off any opponent. Humboldt State aggressively attacked in transition and St. John's style of blocking shots from behind was not working.

After halftime, the general effort was better, and the team put away the Lumberjacks. But in exhibition, style points count too, and the effort from the Red Storm needed improvement.

St. John's shot 25% from outside the arc on the day and 62% from inside the arc - but only 42% in the first half against the undersized Lumberjacks.

The Johnnies also turned the ball over on almost a quarter of their possessions (21 turnovers, 24% of possessions) and gave up 20 offensive rebounds (38.5% of Humboldt State's misses).

Humboldt State was led by 14 points from Malik Morgan, with 13 from Calvin Young and 12 from Austin Bryan. Morgan had 6 assists.

The starting five was Chris Obekpa, D`Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan, Phil Greene IV, and Sir`Dominic Pointer. Jamal Branch, Christian Jones, Amar Alibegovic and Felix Balamou came off the bench. Adonis Delarosa did not play.


Rebounding is going to be a problem

At least right now, no rebounder emerged, and the team's individual rebounding was only so-so against a team with no regular over 6'7". Humboldt State grabbed 20 offensive rebounds (38.5% of their misses) and the Red Storm's dedication to boxing out needs to improve.

Chris Obekpa looks strong

Using his quickness, showing himself well to accept passes, and a dribble to organize himself, Obekpa got great shots at the rim. Obekpa ran the floor with an urgency that was lacking his first two years. And more interestingly, especially for his professional prospects, Chris Obekpa shot a pair of jump shots form the 15-foot area by the StJ logo.

And of course, he blocked a lot of shots - eight in the first half and 11 for the game.

Also, he folds his shorts into themselves to give a 1979 short-shorts look.

Christian Jones is back

Jones, the redshirt sophomore forward who came to St. John's with under-the-radar promise, was solid, looking for his shot, using his quickness on drives from the midrange area.

Rysheed Jordan was pressing. Or something.

Trying to go one-on-everyone at times, expecting to draw fouls that were not called, Rysheed Jordan was out of control in the first half. He had three assists, but looked more for his shot than his teammates. Backup point guard Jamal Branch wasn't much better, also out of control in the half.

Jordan was better in the second half, hitting back-to-back three-pointers; and his defense was good. But neither point guard covered himself in glory or led the team. Phil Greene ended up playing ballhandler, and only shot three shots, twice from beyond the arc, and was held scoreless.

Freshman watch

Amar Alibegovic played 14 minutes, looking tentative much of the time. He did pop into open spaces waiting for passes on the perimeter for his shot. Adonis Delarosa did not play.