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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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New Line-up shakes things up for St. John’s versus Fordham, 83-69

The Red Storm Cheer Squad and Dance Team entertain the crowd during a media time-out in St. John’s win against Fordham on December 5, 2021.
TORCH PHOTO/ Isabella Cautero
The Red Storm Cheer Squad and Dance Team entertain the crowd during a media time-out in St. John’s win against Fordham on December 5, 2021.

The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team took over Sunday night against the Fordham Rams in an 83-69 victory, despite the blowout loss they faced against No. 8 Kansas two nights prior. A new starting lineup seemed to be the key to success that St. John’s head coach Anderson had been looking for as a great effort from the entire team pushed them above their neighbors from the Bronx. 

After a tough loss on Friday, Dec. 3, Anderson looked to make quick changes with his starting five, and those changes ultimately proved to pay off for the Red Storm. New life came with the inclusion of junior forward Esahia Nyiwe and sophomore guard Dylan Addae-Wusu, who each played more than 25 minutes and combined for a total of 30 points. The rest of the starting line-up for the Johnnies included Julian Champagnie and Montez Mathis, who each came up with 16 points and Posh Alexander who led the Johnnies with 23 points. Former starter Joel Soriano only played a total of eight minutes on Friday, against his former team as well. 

Like a breath of fresh air, Esahia Nyiwe breezed into the starting line-up and proved himself to be a right fit. The junior forward’s on-court presence livened up Carnesecca Arena as he played for twenty-five minutes with consistent and strong basketball. Early on, the new starter for the Red Storm was shooting well and blocking shots, as well as shaping up strongly underneath the basket and grabbing multiple rebounds for the Red Storm. His 11 points and 11 assists marked his first career double-double. 

Nyiwe’s vocal presence was praised by teammate Posh Alexander, who says “he talks a lot on the court [and] he helps out others, telling us to watch the backdoor or whether a screen is to the left or the right. Those are things he brings to the team we really appreciate.” 

“It’s all about opportunity,” said Anderson in a post game press conference when asked about the sudden change of the line-up and what made him make the call. Similarly, Anderson praised Nyiwe for his basketball intelligence, saying he proved himself in practice and earned his spot in the starting five. Nyiwe took the opportunity that was given to him by Anderson and made a huge difference on the court Sunday night.  

Overall, Anderson was impressed by the effort that his team made since Fordham has been doing very well in three-point range. Coining it a “neighborhood brawl,” he also commented on how Fordham kept coming back and giving the Johnnies a good fight down the stretch. The Rams best scoring run came in the second half when they closed the gap to 60-51, but St. John’s was able to shut them down for the rest of the game following that ten point run. 

As the team has narrowly beaten mediocre opponents thus far, this game against Fordham was a breakthrough success, especially for  Alexander and Nyiwe. They both made great strides on offense and defense to push the team into a significant win. The entire team effort made by the Johnnies was certainly something to note as well, scoring a collective 52 points in the paint and holding the Rams to only twenty-four in the paint.  Shooting 55.7 percent from the paint, it is clear why they won this game and not against Kansas where their field goal percentage was only 43.6 percent. 

Scoring a career high 23 points, Alexander showed his dominance as a guard mid-way through his sophomore season. He was able to facilitate the ball extremely well and create opportunities for the St. John’s offense that has yet to be seen this season by the Johnnies, coming up with five assists, four rebounds and three steals.  His strength underneath the basket was a sight to see as he broke through strong defenders on multiple attempts and earned his way to the free throw line multiple times. A new strategy may have been discovered as well, having Addae-Wusu take the ball up more and run the point as Posh could then be used off the ball more to score points.  

Down the stretch, Anderson believes that it is important to make more free throws when given the opportunity. In this game players were getting to the line and attacking the boards more, but in the future they need to start making more free throws in order to come up with smoother wins. In the first half they shot six of seven from the line, but in the second were only able to get four of nine. In the final stretch of the game, Alexander and Champagnie both missed crucial points from the free-throw line. Luckily their lead against the Rams was large enough to not make a difference, but it was against a team who shot 93.6 percent from the free-throw line, whereas St. John’s shot 62.5 percent from the line. Similarly, they shot 61.5 percent against Kansas two nights prior, who shot 72 percent. 

From behind the three-point line, the entire bench was shooting at a much better pace than they have been all season. In the first half the starting five was lighting up and helped lead the team to a 44.4 three-point percentage from behind the arc. Percentages aside, the ball movement on the floor allowed for players like Alexander and Addae-Wusu to get good looks and have enough time to make better shots throughout the night. The depth of the St. John’s bench on Sunday night has not been seen since their opening game against Mississippi Valley State. In the final half, the St. John’s bench played only eight total minutes.  

Each player, including that of veteran forward Julian Champagnie, had a role in stepping up in this cohesive win. Champagnie had a strong first half but slowed down offensively in the second. His poise in the back court allowed for his teammates to prove themselves and take over on shots. Defensively, Champagnie was able to come up with eight rebounds, an aspect of the game that the entire team struggled with against Kansas on Friday night. 

This improvement on the boards was something Anderson was looking for. “I thought we did a much better job of taking care of the glass with multiple guys getting rebounds,” Anderson said. “That’s the emphasis. It was about defense.” 

This defense also held the Rams to ten made three-pointers out of 32 attempts. Fordham’s Darius Quisenberry and Chuba Ohams proved to be the biggest problems for the St. John’s defense early on. Both of them shot very well, as Ohams went nine for ten from the free-throw line and Quisenberry went three for three. Luckily the Red Storm was able to hold Quisenberry to zero points in the second half. Ohams went on to score 20 points in the entire game, but the execution by the St. John’s defense against Quisenberry is something to take note of as Big East play slowly approaches. 

Addae-Wusu was also a key player in the game, making a career high 11 assists to push the Johnnies further into a lead throughout the second half. Coming off of an injury at the start of the season you can see the improvement in his game. Anderson says he’s a “glue guy,” someone who makes the whole team ready to play each game. His efforts will be a great asset down the line as Anderson says he can really see how ready he is to be on the court more. 

Although this win has proven a lot to the Red Storm fans about this St. John’s team, there is still a long way to go. Anderson says the team is a work in progress and that there are many things needed to be ironed out still. A key to winning in the future is going to be their strength in the paint. As good as it is to see three-pointers, there needs to be an emphasis on getting to the basket and then consistently scoring free-throws afterwards.   

The Red Storm is back in action on Thursday, Dec. 9 in Carnesecca Arena as they take on the Monmouth Hawks at 8:30 p.m. on FS1. 

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About the Contributor
Isabella Cautero
Isabella Cautero, Sports Editor
Isabella is a senior journalism major serving as the Sports Editor for The Torch. She is minoring in sport management. Outside of The Torch, she works as an academic tutor at the University Learning Commons. She likes to spend time with her friends, read, play with her dog and watch the New York Rangers or Yankees. On any given day you can find her listening to her favorite artists, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. Isabella can be reached at [email protected].
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    Leonard AksDec 8, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    The season will come down to how the center plays. The interior defense has been poor. Hopefully, with this new center, play will improve. The second line of defense must improve. The transfers have been disappointing. The freshmen have been ok. Wusu plays with experience.