SJU wins big in preseason, shifts focus to opener vs. Wisconsin

The St. John’s men’s basketball team crushed Division II Humboldt State 106-39 Monday at Carnesecca Arena in its final exhibition before opening the regular season Friday against No. 20 Wisconsin.

The Red Storm led from wire-to-wire against the Lumberjacks – the polar opposite of the close two-point win over Division II San Francisco State Saturday. Junior Sir’Dominic attributed that change to a renewed focus.

“I think last game we thought we were going to come out and blow them out,” Pointer said. “This game we were more focused. We weren’t worried about Wisconsin. We didn’t even talk about Wisconsin until after the game.”

The Johnnies built as much as a 69-point lead against the Arcata, Calif. school with senior God’sgift Achiuwa’s 24 points leading the way. Senior Orlando Sanchez and sophomore Max Hooper each contributed 12.

“I watched my team from the sideline last year and from the TV for the games that I didn’t go to,” said Achiuwa who redshirted last year. “I’m fighting and I’m really happy to be back to be able to assist them in whichever way I can and to deliver things that coach asks me to do.”

Sophomores Christian Jones and Felix Balamou each sat out the exhibitions. Head coach Steve Lavin said after Monday’s game that Balamou and walk-on freshman David Lipscomb would redshirt. Jones’ status is up in the air at the moment and NCAA rules prohibit any time played – even in exhibitions – for possible redshirt candidates.

“We’re still undecided on Christian Jones,” Lavin said. “It’s ultimately the kid’s choice, the family’s choice.”

Sophomore Chris Obekpa remained on the bench for the final game of his exhibition suspension for a violation of a University policy. He is expected to be available Friday.

Sophomore JaKarr Sampson finished with seven points and didn’t play in the second half to limit any chance of injury with such a wide lead in an exhibition contest, Lavin said.

“I just didn’t want to run the risk of someone going in there, losing them [and] not having them Friday against Wisconsin,” Lavin said.

The Red Storm open the season in Sioux Falls, S.D. against the Badgers. Lavin said the challenge for his team this week will be preparing to face a squad that plays a different style from those St. John’s faced in the preseason.

“I’ve been there both as a winning and losing coach where you have a blow out victory and it kind of sets you up for a real dilemma as you prepare your team to face an opponent where the game is going to be completely different in tempo and style,” Lavin said.

While the matchup with the Big Ten power has loomed ever since the announcement of the game earlier this year, Pointer and Achiuwa said that with the warm-up games out of the way, they’ll be able to put all attention on their first test this season.

“We need these couple days to get back on focus,” Pointer said. For the first game of the season, I think we’re going to be hyped, our engine is going to be up. I think we’re going to be ready for them.