There was no comeback needed in the St. John’s men’s basketball team’s game Nov. 13 against UMBC.
After trailing in the second half against both William & Mary and Lehigh, the Red Storm (3-0) left nothing to chance as they took control of the game early in the second period and cruised to an 82-59 win.
All five starters tallied in double figures for the Johnnies for the first time since they beat then-No. 3 Duke on Jan. 30 last season. Freshman forward Moe Harkless led the team with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while sophomore guard Nurideen Lindsey came one assist shy of recording the men’s basketball team’s first triple-double since Metta World Peace, then known as Ron Artest, in 1999. Lindsey finished the day with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
“I think today, [Lindsey’s] numbers reflect a special performance, and it was understated,” said head coach Steve Lavin. “Like a surgeon, he really cut up our opponent today”
St. John’s fell behind early in both of its previous games, and the slow starts continued as UMBC jumped out to a 10-3 lead. But they quickly erased it with an 8-0 run, and Lavin was never concerned with his team’s play.
“You can be up 14-2 but not feel comfortable about your team bearing, or the energy doesn’t seem right, the temperaments seem a little bit off kilter,” said Lavin. “The flip side can be true. You can be trailing early in a game and actually like where you’re team is at. Right from the jump I liked where our team’s temperament and bearing and collective energy was at. I think it paid dividends and bore fruit in the second half.
St. John’s went into halftime up 39-34, the first time they’ve held a lead at the break in the regular season. When the second half started, the Johnnies went on a 9-1 run to extend the lead to double-digits, where it would remain for the rest of the afternoon. The run was keyed by seven points from junior guard Malik Stith, who came into the game averaging four points per game. Stith finished with a season-high 11 points, which Lindsey said gave the rest of the team a boost.
“Overall, [Stith’s offensive production] gives our team a huge lift-up,” Lindsey said. “His offensive aggression transitioned over into defensive aggression. Offensively, he had a little pace going with himself and it helped him pick up defensively. Him being our leader, we need that aggression and that intensity from him every night because that helps us play hard and feed off of his energy.”
UMBC hit just three of its first 17 shots from the field in the second half, allowing St. John’s to run away with the game. The Red Storm led by as much as 30 in the second half.
The Red Storm now turn their attention to No. 15 Arizona, whom they play at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 17 in the 2K Sports Classic. Lavin was impressed by his team’s poise against UMBC, but said that playing at the Garden would be a different experience.
“The bearing, temperament or manner [of the team] was a mature one [against UMBC] for this stage of the season,” said Lavin. “Now, under the bright lights, Madison Square Garden, playing a Top-20 team, there’s going to be some butterflies, because it’s dramatically different when you take
the floor at the Garden than it is here at Carnesecca.”