The long awaited return of St. John's regular season basketball is here when they face off against Wagner College. Friday's game marks the first under new head coach Chris Mullin. Mullin returns to his alma mater, where he starred as a player from 1981-1985 and won the Big East Player of the Year three times.
The game is on Friday, November 13 at 6pm at Carneseca Arena and will be aired on Fox Sports 1.
In their last game, the Johnnies defeated the Seawolves of Sonoma State 64-46. Yankuba Sima led the way for the Red Storm with 16 points, 16 rebounds and 8 blocks. Christian Jones played well again adding 13 points and 11 rebounds. Durand Johnson and Elijah Holifield each chipped in 7 points. The most important news this week was off the court for St. John's though. The NCAA declared Marcus LoVett ineligible this year which will hurt the team going forward.
Scouting Wagner College
Wagner College is a member of the Northeast Conference. Other members of the Northeast Conference include other local schools St. Francis College and LIU Brooklyn. Last year, the conference sent Robert Morris to the NCAA tournament where they defeated North Florida in a play-in game and lost to eventual national champion Duke.
This year, the Seahawks were picked to finish sixth in the NEC. According to Ken Pomeroy, Wagner is ranked 255 to start the year. They return four of their top five scorers from last year's team that went 10-20. However, this year the Staten Island school returns redshirt senior forward Mike Aaman. He will be counted on for scoring, as the 6-8 forward averaged 10.4 points and 9.3 rebounds over the 2014-15 campaign.
The Staten Islanders will go as their sophomore class goes. Corey Henson, Romone Saunders, and Jojo Cooper highlight this class. Henson and Saunders both are big guards standing at 6-3, while Cooper is 6-1. Last year, these three combined for almost 23 points per game. This backcourt trio could breakout this year and become a premier backcourt for years to come.
In their last meeting, St. John's defeated Wagner 73-57. D'Angelo Harrison led St. John's with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Jakarr Sampson added 13 points and 7 rebounds. In the all-time series, St. John's holds a 16-2 advantage over Wagner.
What to Watch for
Turnovers: The Wagner Seahawks are known for their pressure defense. Last year, the Northeast Conference school forced 14.1 turnovers per game. St. John's had 27 and 18 turnovers in their two exhibition games respectively. The Johnnies face a huge step up in competition Friday night, so they need to value possessions.
Rebounding: On Saturday, The Red Storm out rebounded Sonoma State 44-35. Christian Jones and Yankuba Sima combined for 27 of those rebounds. If those two can continue double digit rebounding figures, the Queens school will have a formidable front line not only in this game but throughout the year. Wagner's roster boasts five players that are 6-8, so they are not necessarily big but they have the ability to play big lineups.
Yankuba Sima: The freshman has the ability to be a game changer on both ends for the Johnnies. The 6-11 center showed the ability to protect the rim and some pretty footwork on the offensive end. The big man should be aggressive on the offensive end against an undersized Wagner team.