Johnson dominates intrasquad scrimmage

Carmine Carcieri, Assistant Sports Editor

Behind an impressive performance from graduate transfer and former Pittsburgh Panther Durand Johnson, the White team defeated the Red team, 84-72, in the Johnnies’ first Red and White Scrimmage at Carnesecca Arena under new head coach Chris Mullin.

Johnson (White) scored 32 points, shot 11-of-17 from the field, knocked down five threes and grabbed five rebounds on Saturday. The 6’6” forward also showed an underrated array of passes and was able to attack the rim, finishing with either hand. His length and hand activity defensively bothered the opposing team, as he was able to create multiple deflections and fast break opportunities.

The White team received production from smooth guard Federico Mussini (17 points), the stretch four Darien Williams (11 points) and the high motor of freshman Kassoum Yakwe (eight points and 12 rebounds). The lone returnee on the White squad, shooting guard Felix Balamou, struggled to score before departing with an injury to his arm late in the second half.

Four-star recruit Marcus LoVett, who scored 22 points on 8-of-23 shooting, led the Red team with his tremendous vision (eight assists) and lock down defense on Mussini (five steals). LoVett was aggressive, quick and effective in transition, but he must limit his turnovers (four total) and continue to develop a consistent outside jumper in order to match-up with the physical point guards in the Big East Conference.

Freshman Yankuba Sima had 15 points, former Missouri State guard Ron Mvouika dropped 16 points and first year talent Malik Ellison put up 14 points for the Red team while their teammate, forward Christian Jones, had a game-high 15 rebounds and was active in the paint for most of the afternoon.  

But the Red team had no answer for Johnson in the first half as he scored 18 points, on 7-of-8 shooting, and was drilling three pointers from the wing with ease.

Overall the White team shot 51 percent from the field in the opening half and played strong defense, holding the Red team to just 34 points and only 26 percent shooting from downtown.

Both units played at a fast pace with plenty of quick jump shots, easy baskets at the rim or free throw chances. The Johnnies are expected to carry this NBA style of play and motion offense into the season.

The Red and White teams both experimented with a number of different lineups and defenses, including a full court press mid-way through the first half and a heavy dose of aggressive zone defense. At one point, the Red team went big with Mvouika, LoVett, Sima, Jones and sophomore Amar Alibegovic on the floor.

One area for concern is free throw shooting as the White team shot just 73 percent and the Red team finished with 48 percent.

The Red Storm will play two exhibition match-ups this week against St. Thomas Aquinas on Wednesday and Sonoma State on Saturday.