St. John’s Blowout Win Against Merrimack Overshadowed By The Team’s 29 Turnovers

The team knows what it has to work on to improve. That might be a win in itself.

Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team defeated Merrimack, 97-72, in a flashy victory characterized by a fast-paced tempo and impressive passes in the Monday, Nov. 7 home opener at Carnesecca Arena.

But despite the team’s 25-point victory, the Johnnies tossed away 29 turnovers in a night featuring sloppy play, team miscues and unnecessary lost balls. A large portion of those 29 turnovers were simply unforced errors caused by the fast pace and an attempt to execute tough, creative passes.

“We had jitters early on, but once we settled down we really locked in defensively,” head coach Mike Anderson said in a postgame media conference. “I thought the tempo was to our liking.”

The team’s uptempo play and disruptive defense only works if players can hold onto the ball in transition, and that’s something Anderson recognizes. “We got a lead and we got sloppy with the basketball,” he said. “That will be addressed. That’s not something I condone. We work hard to get the basketball and not give it away.” 

Though the turnovers certainly overshadowed what would have been a thrilling and dominant season-opening victory, there were plenty of things to like for the Red Storm. In fact, having a single and identifiable problem to fix in practice might be the biggest victory in itself.

David Jones, a junior forward who transferred from Big East rival DePaul University, frequently found himself open for the corner three-point attempt. That spurred a memorable first game in a Red Storm uniform marked by a game-high 21 points and ten rebounds.

David Jones takes a shot against Merrimack. Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

“The point guards Posh [Alexander] and Andre [Curbelo] are always telling me to keep shooting the ball and it will go in,” Jones said in a postgame media conference. “I just keep playing basketball trying to get rebounds and I know the shots will come.”

Jones wasn’t the only one to find his stroke on opening night. The team shot at a 56.9 percent clip from the floor, and 38.5 percent from three-point range. That’s up significantly from the team’s 45.3 percent and 33.5 percent figures averaged last season, respectively, which had stretches when the Johnnies were unable to convert on shots. 

The season is still young, but if these numbers hold, it would mean the Red Storm might have successfully mitigated a key flaw of last year’s team — which has eight returning players on this year’s roster. 

Of those numbers, none stands out more than the team’s 86.7 percent conversion rate from the charity stripe. Free throw shooting was a problem for the Johnnies last season, represented by a 67.7 percent conversion rate during the 2021-22 season. 

All eyes were on Posh Alexander and Andre Curbelo, the team’s top ball handlers who both play quick and intense basketball. The two players meshed together well, but Curbelo seemed to prefer quick no-look passes, resulting in five turnovers.

“Our defense is incredible,” Alexander said, referencing his style of play fitting in with Curbelo’s. “Throughout this year, we are going to try and speed people up and make them turn the ball over so we can get on the fastbreak.”

The team has work to do. But they also have a clear and distinct facet of their game that needs correcting, and their other areas of play were good enough that they can focus on protecting the basketball. 

The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 12 against Lafayette at 6 p.m. in Carnesecca Arena.