Leading scorer Daryll Hill was suspended for the St. John’s game against Stony Brook on Wednesday for violating an unnamed team rule.
Coach Norm Roberts was informed of Hill’s transgression between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. by an also unnamed source.
But all the chatter about what actually happened seemed to lighten at game time, when it became apparent that Stony Brook, which took an early eight-point lead, wouldn’t go down easy.
Though, as it turned out, the Red Storm didn’t need the points of Hill, a junior guard, to beat the undersized Seawolves, 63-45, at Carnesecca Arena. All it needed was a strong low-post game √¢?” provided by junior forward Lamont Hamilton’s 17 points.
“We really don’t have an inside game,” Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said.
And it showed.
St. John’s (5-1) doubled up the America East school in points in the paint, 32-16. The 6-foot-10 Hamilton was the biggest reason why, connecting on 6-of-7 shots from the field, including a couple of explosive dunks on the heads of Seawolves players.
Stony Brook’s initial strategy, especially with only one starter taller than 6-foot-8, was to prevent the very thing Hamilton seemed to do time and time again: score or get fouled down low.
“We wanted to clog the middle, make them shoot over us,” Pikiell said.
The zone defense Stony Brook (0-4) switched to midway through the first half to try and keep the ball from moving inside was quickly torn up by a surprisingly efficient St. John’s offense.
The Red Storm shot 59 percent from the field, a season high, and sophomore Eugene Lawrence, Hill’s replacement at the point, shot 4-of-7 for 12 points.
But Lawrence was tentative and unsure at times with the basketball, committing six turnovers.
“All in all, I thought we were a little sloppy with the basketball,” Roberts said.
What Lawrence and sophomore guard Cedric Jackson did do √¢?” with five assists each √¢?” was drive the lane and dish to open shooters.
“Eugene and Ced did a good job of penetrating the gap and finding me,” said freshman Ricky Torres, who had a career-high 10 points in 17 minutes.
Torres’ points were needed, especially without Hill in the lineup. The St. Raymond’s product, known for his ability to knock down three-pointers, actually scored his first basket on a steal and lay-in.
“That basically helped me get into the game more,” Torres said.
So did the loss of Hill, literally. Torres respected that Roberts suspended the team’s best player without prejudice.
“He could do it to anyone,” Torres said.
Roberts agreed: “All my players are held to the same standard.”
And in this game, Hill’s absence didn’t seem to matter anyway.