Jamaica, NY- On opening night in Carnesecca Arena the Red Storm needed to make a statement.
With plenty of negativity following the loss of Keith Thomas, Adonis Delarosa being named ineligible, and Isaiah Briscoe opting to join up with the Wildcats in Kentucky, the Johnnies kept their poise in the Red Storm's 77-58 win over NJIT.
While at times the offense seemed disjointed, which Lavin attributed to having a "different combination of players" than usual due to foul trouble, the defensive intensity was never lacking.
The stat lines were fairly impressive across the board, with Chris Obekpa leading the way posting career highs in rebounds (13), and points (13). Look to see Obekpa fill the stat sheet a bit more often. As D`Angelo Harrison put it "he's going to have a breakout year."
Lavin was "overall pleased, especially on defense" with the performance Friday night.
He noted that an important factor to this seasons success will be the defensive pressure and that the team should be able to play a style of game similar to that of Providence from a season ago.
The negative side effect of this style of game was shown a bit against NJIT. Aggressive - sometimes overly so - play at times led to early foul trouble for a few starters including D`Angelo Harrison, who fouled out with just over 3:00 to play in the second half.
To remedy the issue, Lavin referred to using "purposeful pressure" and "organized discipline." inferring that team has to play smarter, confident that disciplined defense leads to better outcomes.
The full-court press is also key to throwing the opponent off rhythm and eating away at the shot clock. Expect this to improve as the season continues, as long as the team maintains a strong mental focus.
According to Steve Lavin, while the game was never in any doubt, with St. John's leading by as many as 22 and winning by 18, there was never a dominant feel to it.
As Lavin put it, "the game felt disjointed, but its nice to have a 20 point lead as opposed to Robert Morris where the game feels disjointed and your down 38 on your home court. So this was a more appealing disjointed game."
A big part of that lack of rhythm for the johnnies was due to foul trouble. The team was forced to play different combinations of players they are unaccustomed to.
The first six (Obekpa, Phil Greene, Harrison, Sir`Dominic Pointer, Rysheed Jordan, Jamal Branch) will be getting the majority of the minutes. Situations such as this, where the Red Storm are in foul trouble, give them an opportunity to develop their 7,8, and 9 guys to add some depth to the rotation.
Jordan had a team high 18 points to go along with four boards and five assists.
He also showed great patience, not forcing the issue, and only committed one turnover. Pleased with his performance, Lavin sees Jordan as someone capable of six boards a game and looks for him to improve his rebounding effort. He also wants to see an improvement in Jordan's off-ball awareness both offensively and defensively and thinks that improvement in those areas will "take his game to the next level."
Next up for the Red Storm is a Monday night matchup with Franklin Pierce as part of the NIT tip-off. Stay locked in to the Rumble as we have full coverage leading up to the game.
Game Notes: Adonis Delarosa was unavailable for Friday night's game as he appeals his eligibility decision and there is no timetable for his return. The team, according to Steve Lavin, is "maintaining a cautious approach" to the situation in regards to possible eligibility issues.