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The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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LoVett, Clark II Lead Read Storm to Opening-Night Victory Over UNO

LoVett notched a game-high 23 and Clark II brought an added intensity in the 77-61 win.
Photo Courtesy/Nick Bello

Marvin Clark II just wanted to play — the wait was worth it.

“It felt great to finally get out there and play against some competition,” he said. “Happy we got the first one out of the way. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done.”

In his regular season debut for the Red Storm — he sat out last year per NCAA rules after transferring from Michigan State — the St. John’s forward was an electrifying ingredient in Head Coach Chris Mullin’s mix-and-match formula, propelling his side to a 77-61 victory over the University of New Orleans.

Clark II stuffed the stat sheet, finishing the night with 15 points, three rebounds, a pair of assists and a pair of steals in 29 minutes. It was everything that he could have hoped for in his first meaningful action since March 18, 2016, when his Michigan State team lost in an upset against Middle Tennessee State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“It felt good to make some shots from the outside for a change,” Clark II said with a chuckle. “We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things, so it just really makes the game a lot easier. I feel very comfortable on the floor.”

The 6-foot-8 Clark II wasn’t the only one lighting up Carnesecca Arena’s hardwood. Four Red Storm players finished in double figures, including Marcus LoVett, who notched a game-high 23 on an even 50 percent shooting.

St. John’s nearly succumbed to the opening-night jitters early on, struggling to distance themselves from the Privateers, a team that won the Southland Conference a year ago and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm picked up five fouls in the game’s first 11 minutes and were outrebounded, 16-9, in the first half.

With just over 12 minutes left in the half, the Red Storm lost track of the shot clock and were called for a 24-second violation. On the ensuing UNO possession, Kassoum Yakwe was called for a foul and sent Jorge Rosa to the line, where he could have made it a two-point game.

He missed the first free throw, though, and from there, St. John’s was able to recover after a sloppy start. Their saving grace to that point had been Clark II, who had 11 points in the first half, and Justin Simon, the Arizona transfer who kept the crowd buzzing with a pair of sensational dunks.

“These guys bring so much energy to our team that we can only build from it,” LoVett said of Clark II and Simon, two high-major transfers. “We just have to keep building, staying focused in practice and listen to what coaches have for us.”

After the first 15 minutes, the Red Storm looked like the dangerously raw team that many expect them to be for the duration of the season. Clark II converted an and-one with just about four minutes to go in the first, part of a small 12-5 spurt that built St. John’s lead to nine at the break.

The team’s defense wasn’t elite, but it was noticeably better than last year. The frontcourt rotated well, forcing UNO’s guards into decisions late in the shot clock. That’s how the Red Storm forced 21 turnovers.

Once Mullin got his team up by 10, it never really felt like they would relinquish their advantage. The decisive blow came relatively early in the second, when LoVett drained a three off of a Privateers turnover. The jumper put the Red Storm up by 14 with 14 to go, but the offense was already on cruise control.

Rebounding is still the Red Storm’s biggest weakness, losing the battle on the boards 42-27, but they masked their inefficiencies well, fighting for every possession and often coming up with loose balls and tipped rebounds.

Clark II only had three boards, but he was instrumental in throwing off some of UNO’s big men near the glass. Michael Zeno and Makur Puou, the Privateers’ two starting forwards, combined for just nine rebounds.

They were also plagued by foul trouble. Yakwe had one of the worst games of his collegiate career, recording four fouls and zero points in eight minutes. All of the Red Storm’s starting five had at least two fouls, something Mullin said cannot continue with a short rotation.

“Everybody’s going to get their shot,” Mullin said. “I like our rotations. It gives everyone a chance to contribute.”

Still, the second-half margin was never in doubt, and by the time LoVett sent home a crowd-pleasing three with less than a minute to go, the fans were sure that their team would be 1-0, thanks in large part to Clark II’s tenacity.

“He’s going to continue to get better,” Mullin said of Clark II. “He’s definitely a threat in a lot of different areas. I think as the season starts to unwind, he’ll settle in and produce more.”

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About the Contributor
Dylan Hornik
Dylan Hornik, Sports Editor Emeritus
Dylan Hornik is a senior journalism major and spent the last two years as a sports staff writer and Assistant Sports Editor for the Torch. He hoped to illuminate the rich history of St. John’s athletics while keeping readers up-to-date and informed on today’s sports teams, bringing together Johnnies from all walks of life. He has finished his undergrad years as of December 2017 and will be graduating in May.
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