The St. John’s men’s basketball team opened up the Charleston Classic by defeating the host school, College of Charleston, 64-53 to advance to the semi-finals in the tournament.
The Red Storm (2-0) pulled away early in the first half, running up and down the floor with relative ease, and never had too much of a scare. The Cougars managed to go on a run late in the second half, cutting the score to single digits, but St. John’s had amassed too much of a lead for them to overcome.
“I’m proud of how [our kids] played a cohesive brand of basketball,” head coach Steve Lavin told reporters. “I thought our energy and defense on the floor ignited our offense. We were also aggressive, and yet, we showed intelligence by not fouling.”
The Johnnies succeeded with point distribution as five players scored at least eight points. Sophomore D’Angelo Harrison led the team with 21 points, while freshman JaKarr Sampson contributed eight points and 10 rebounds.
“We have really good chemistry, which we carried on from this summer,” Harrison told reporters. “It was like a regular road win for us. It was good that we played the host team, but we have to have everyone playing well at all times.”
Sophomores Amir Garrett and Phil Greene added 11 and 10 points respectively. In Greene’s case, all of the scoring came in the second half. He has also played all but two minutes of the season so far.
Nori Johnson led the Cougars with 11 points and Trent Wiedeman added 10.
Felix Balamou saw two minutes of action, his first of the season, following Lavin’s decision to keep him on the bench instead of redshirting him. Senior God’sgift Achiuwa travelled with the team, though he is expected to redshirt. Senior Orlando Sanchez and junior Marco Bourgault did not travel with the team, as they have not yet been cleared by the NCAA.
For tonight’s game, Lavin placed a large emphasis on marinating a “road warrior mentality,” as the home team had good support in the stands.
“We talked about the importance of being able to win on the road in college basketball,” Lavin told reporters. “Tonight was a great opportunity to get a sense or gauge for where we are in terms of maturity and elements of being successful in enemy territory – like a venue like this can be.”
The Red Storm will move on in the winner’s bracket of the tournament to face Murray State at 5:30pm Friday evening. The Racers defeated the Auburn Tigers 79-59 following St. John’s victory. The winner of that game will advance to the Sunday night championship game against the winner of Colorado and Baylor at 8:30pm.
“We will have to recalibrate and get ready for another tough opponent tomorrow night,” Lavin told reporters.