New Faces Star in Win over C.W. Post
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The St. John’s men’s basketball team showed a glimpse of what it is capable offensively in the exhibition opener on Oct. 25 against C.W. Post.
Junior forward God’sgift Achuiwa scored 21 points and freshman guard Phil Greene added 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting to lead the Red Storm to a 110-80 win.
The Johnnies shot 66 percent from the field on the night and dished out 24 assists with just 10 turnovers. Freshman forward Maurice Harkless led the team with 14 rebounds in addition to scoring 14 points, while Achiuwa grabbed nine boards.
“We were trying figure out who we were, style of play, brand new team,” said assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who filled in for still-recovering head coach Steve Lavin.
That style of play was to run at every opportunity. Achuiwa scored the Red Storm’s first points of the game in transition off a feed from junior point guard Malik Stith, which set the tone for the night.
The Johnnies pressed after every basket and dead ball in the first half. While this did force nine first-half turnovers from C.W. Post, they also allowed them to shoot 47 percent from the field in the first period.
Post guard Stefan Bonneau, a preseason Division II All-American, scored 13 points in the first half, including two straight threes in the early stages to give Post an 11-10 lead going into the first media timeout.
“We know we need to do a better job on the defensive end of the floor,” Dunlap said. “But we were trying different combinations. We had to be careful with the foul situations. That forced our hand a little bit, as it will all year long.”
Achuiwa scored six of his points in the first 2:12 of action and scored 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting in the first half.
On the other hand, freshman small forward Maurice Harkless struggled in the first half of his St. John’s debut, committing two offensive fouls in the first nine minutes and playing seven minutes in the half.
Greene was there to pick up the slack off the bench, however. He shot 4-of-5 in the first half and scored 11 points in the frame to help lead the Johnnies to a 51-40 lead going into the break.
“I shoot when it’s time to,” said Greene. “My teammates did an excellent job of penetrating and kicking, and looking for the weak side, which got me open.”
Coming out of the locker room, the Johnnies went on a 10-2 run to push the lead to 61-42 with 18:12 left. Harkless scored eight points and grabbed two boards during that stretch, in which St. John’s forced three Post turnovers.
“It was nice to see us come out in the second half and establish a tone where we were going to play through the paint,” said Dunlap.
After the timeout, Harkless found Lindsey with a long outlet pass, and then drained a pull-up jumper two possessions later. Greene’s third three pushed the lead to 24 at the under-16-minute timeout.
The Johnnies pushed the lead to 30 after Greene found Lindsey for a fastbreak layup with 12:12 left, and never let the lead get below 22 the rest of the way.
With 1:59 to play, the newest of the newcomers got their first opportunity. Freshman walk-ons Samuel Sealy-James and Gerard Rivers, who were added to the roster on gameday, came in to a rousing ovation from the student section. The crowd
got even louder when Rivers scored within seconds of entering the game.
Dunlap played the role of head coach in the absence of Steve Lavin, who is still recovering from prostate cancer surgery.
“Lav gets [the win],” said Dunlap. “Last year, I got the loss against Seton Hall [after Lavin was ejected late in the game]. I drink the bad beer. He gets the champagne.”
St. John’s plays its second and final exhibition game on Nov. 1 against St. Mary’s (Md.) at Carnesecca Arena. There is no word on whether Lavin will return to the team by then.