Maryland-Eastern Shore isn’t exactly Syracuse or Connecticut.
But there was at least one person at St. John’s 77-40 season-opening win Saturday night at Carnesecca Arena who thought the Red Storm were as good as such teams.
“We played Iowa and in the first half, we played very good defense against Iowa,” Maryland-Eastern Shore coach Larry Lessett said, “and St. John’s is as good as Iowa √¢?” and they’re ranked 20th in the country.”
The Red Storm did look good at most points in the blowout, but it probably didn’t look that good √¢?” especially offensively √¢?” against a team that it should have no problem beating.
The team only shot 38 percent from the field and St. John’s two top returning scorers √¢?” juniors Lamont Hamilton and Daryll Hill √¢?” were a combined 7-for-24.
Despite the poor percentages, St. John’s coach Norm Roberts was pleased with the team in an aspect of the game it was inconsistent in last season: shot selection.
“We took good shots,” Roberts said. “We [passed] the ball where we needed to get it most of the time.”
Highly regarded freshman Anthony Mason, Jr., with his father, former Knick Anthony Mason Sr., and his mother Monique Bryant, watching in the stands, was 3-for-12 from the field. The younger Mason was more thrilled to see his mother, who made the trip from his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., to see her son’s first collegiate game in front of 3,648 loud Carnesecca Arena fans..
“It really pumped me up when I saw her,” Mason Jr. said.
Mason Jr. might have not had a good shooting night, but at least his mother could witness a win in which St. John’s led by as much as 39 points.
Hill had 14 points, but it was the team’s secondary scoring options that starred.
Sophomore forward Dexter Gray led all scorers with 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting and sophomore guard Cedric Jackson pitched in 12, going 5-for-6 from the field. Hamilton had a game-high 13 rebounds.
And it was the Red Storm’s ability to rebound √¢?” and get second-chance points √¢?” that won the game, not its scoring.
St. John’s had more offensive rebounds (29) than Maryland-Eastern Shore had defensive boards (19). The Red Storm out-rebounded the Hawks 57 to 33.
The presence of junior-college transfer Aaron Spears (three offensive rebounds) and the help of Gray (five rebounds) and sophomore guard Eugene Lawrence (six offensive rebounds, nine total) took the inside pressure off Hamilton, something Roberts cited as a major key to the game.
“Lamont doesn’t have to battle three guys every time,” the coach said.
Lawrence had four steals and seven points.
Defensively, the Red Storm shut down the Hawks from the beginning of the game. Maryland-Eastern Shore shot 31 percent from the field and St. John’s forced the team into 33 turnovers. There was a stretch in the first half when the visiting team didn’t have a field goal over the span of 13 minutes.
When asked if he had ever been in a game where the team didn’t score for that long, Hill replied, “Yeah. In high school.”