St. John’s Rolls Past Mississippi Valley St., 119-61 in Home Opener

Points scored is most since 1990; largest margin of victory since 1951

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Graduate student Tareq Coburn in St. John’s season opener’s game against MS Valley State. TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

St. John’s pummelled Mississippi Valley State, the worst team in Division I according to both offensive and defensive statistics, to the tune of 119-61 enroute to their eighth straight victory to open their season on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at Carnesecca Arena. 

It was a historic victory for the Johnnies despite the subpar competition as they scored the most points in a game since 1990, when the Red Storm scored 135 in a program-best effort against Central Connecticut State. Their 58-point margin of victory was their largest in over half a century, when they won by 60 points in a game on Nov. 28, 1951. 

The win was an all around team effort with six players reaching double digit point totals for St. John’s, but it’s not abundantly clear how deep head coach Mike Anderson will use his bench when the games get tougher. 14 players checked in for the Johnnies and 12 of them scored points as they pulled away from Mississippi Valley State as the game continued. 

Anderson’s team executed the things we’ve come to expect from them, including fast play which led to nine team steals. The team’s shooting was a noticeable improvement from last season, as St. John’s made 13 three-point baskets at a 52 percent clip. The team shot better as the night went on, with a 69.2 three-point percentage in the second half due to increased contributions from Posh Alexander, Julian Champagnie and Dylan Addae-Wusu from behind the arc. 

Anderson was initially unsure of whether Addae-Wusu, who was recovering from ankle surgery to remove bone chips after the 2020-21 season, would be available for the home opener. Addae-Wusu participated in non-contact drills prior to the game and was made available before gametime. He played 12 minutes against Mississippi Valley State, and contributed eight points and two three-pointers alongside a tenacious defensive effort that saw him force two steals. 

The Red Storm offense utilized a big man for most of the night, whether it be Joel Soriano, Aaron Wheeler or O’Mar Stanley inside the paint. Soriano secured his first double double in his first game as a Johnnie with 11 points and 13 rebounds. 

“He’s using his size to handle defensive boards,” Anderson said in the post-game media conference. “But on the offensive side he’s using his length.” Soriano set himself apart by his ability to get fouled and knock down free throws, going seven for eight on the line. Having a big man on the roster “gives [St. John’s] another weapon,” Anderson continued. 

Anderson also got a look at his team leaders at the point guard position for 2021-22, as Alexander facilitated ball movement for his team with seven assists. The reigning Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year didn’t dominate driving to the basket quite like last year – perhaps because of Soriano’s presence in the paint – but instead shot 80 percent from three-point range on five attempts. “We came out to work hard and get the win,” Alexander said. When Alexander rests, a combination of Rafael Pinzon and Stef Smith will lead the point. 

“We know what [Alexander] can do defensively,” Anderson said. On offense, the head coach added, “He was kind of running the team.”

A notable exception to the extensive roster use tonight was freshman Drissa Traore, who Anderson announced will be redshirting for the 2021-22 season. 

St. John’s now has two blowout victories (one exhibition) against meager opponents, but it’s still unclear how Anderson will utilize his rotation in a close game. We’ll find out soon enough, as St. John’s plays St. Peter’s on Saturday, Nov. 13 – who Anderson readily admits plays the Johnnies close – and Indiana on Wednesday, Nov. 17. 

“They all had some flashes,” Anderson said. “But we just got to get better.”