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St. John's vs. St. Thomas Aquinas Game Preview

The new-look Red Storm - with nine new players and returning players stepping into more prominent roles - take the court tomorrow night.

Malik Ellison defends Durand Johnson
Malik Ellison defends Durand Johnson
Wendell Cruz

St. John’s opens up competition against opposing schools in an exhibition game tomorrow against St. Thomas Aquinas, a Division II school located in Sparkill, New York. New coach Chris Mullin will be looking for his first win (unofficially) at the helm of the Red Storm.

The game is on Wednesday, November 4 at 7pm at Carneseca Arena and will be aired on ESPN3.

The team is coming off the Red and White Scrimmage on Saturday afternoon where Durand Johnson, the graduate transfer from the University of Pittsburgh, led all scorers with 32 points.  He had an efficient stat line, going 11 of 17 from the field including 5 of 8 from three-point range with 5 rebounds.  Other key players Marcus LoVett and Federico Mussini chipped in 22 points and 17 points, respectively.

Coach Mullin was impressed with the team’s play on Halloween.  He said, "overall, I thought it was a good workout. Fatigue was a factor today because we only had a sub or two on each side, but our team has been consistent in delivering a good effort."

Scouting St. Thomas Aquinas

The Spartans are a Division II opponent from the East Coast Conference.  They play in the same conference as local schools such as Molloy College, Queens College, and New York Institute of Technology.

This is the first of two games against Division I opponents this season.  The Spartans travel to the University of Rhode Island on Thursday to take on the Rams, led by Dan Hurley (who was rumored to be a candidate for a number of jobs - possibly including St. John's - last offseason).

The 2014-2015 Spartans had a record of 21-11, losing 82-78 in the East Coast Conference Championship to the University of Bridgeport. That record does not include the exhibition game against St. John’s, which the Red Storm won 97-71 after a slow start.

St. Thomas Aquinas returns a number of players from last year’s squad, including their leading scorer Chaz Watler, who lead the Spartans with 15.1 points per game and adding 2.5 assists and 4 rebounds.  Other key players are redshirt sophomore guard/forward Justin Reyes and sophomore guard Shaquille McFarlan.  Reyes averages 11.5 per points per game and nearly 7 rebounds.  Meanwhile, McFarlan averages 8.7 points and 3.9 assists.

For a Division II school, St. Thomas has a decent amount of size to match up with St. John’s.  The Rockland county school has four players who stand 6’6" or taller including a 6’10" center.

What to Watch For

What's the rotation? The Red Storm want to run and shoot this year.  But how quick is the hook for some players? If St. John’s has another sluggish start like last year, Chris Mullin may give a glimpse into how he will run a rotation this year and what other players on St. John’s will step up into scoring roles besides Durand Johnson.

Eight players between the two teams in the scrimmage last weekend scored in double figures.  This game will give the team a chance to figure out who will step up as primary scoring options.  Moreover, it will be interesting to see which players actually start this game... and whether Kassoum Yakwe and Marcus Lovett will be eligible, as St. John's is waiting for the NCAA Clearinghouse's verdict on both.

Bombs away! In addition, St. John's wants to shoot from behind the arc.

Between the two teams on Saturday, they attempted 50 shots from three point land and made 19.   Durand Johnson led the team going 5-8 from behind the arc, and Ron Mvouika was 4-8.

Another key component to this attack from three will be how Coach Mullin schemes to get players open and how the players set each other up.  This game will offer some insight into how the team will be able to execute this strategy throughout the course of the season.