The St. John’s men’s basketball team (10-7, 1-3 Big East) has been in action since the academic off-season, playing in seven games, three of which were in-conference play. For the span of Dec. 21 to Jan. 11, they went 4-3. The Johnnies were confident in their game play early on, winning all but one of their games during the month of December, and then kicked off the new year with conference play on Jan. 3 against DePaul.
NJITSt. John’s was back in Queens to handle the Highlanders after an 11-day break for finals. Despite a slow start, St. John’s pulled through. Junior shooting guard Avery Patterson led the Johnnies to a 5th consecutive win 68-50. “We needed to come out and play harder and that’s what we did in the second half,” Patterson said. St. John’s finished 50 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from the arc, and 66.7 percent from the line. They capitalized on the 16 turnovers made by the Highlanders, converting them into 16 points.
ColumbiaDuring the Norm Roberts era, St. John’s has gone 3-0 against Columbia. This season the Johnnies shut the Lions down with a 36-point performance by senior forward Lamont Hamilton, who surpassed his career-high 24 points, the most points for a Johnnie since Marcus Hatten’s 44-point performance against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in 2003. Junior captain and point guard Eugene Lawrence finished with seven points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out 10 assists en route to the 6th straight victory, 76-70.
Boston UniversitySt. John’s commenced the Holiday Festival at MSG with a game against BU. The game stayed tight all the way to the end and even went into overtime, the first of the St. John’s season. St. John’s struggled, but overcame. “I told my guys that there are going to be nights like this that are bad and we didn’t play very well but we [had] to fight through it,” Roberts said. St. John’s defeated the Terriers 45-44, in their 7th straight game, a feat that has not been accomplished since the ’99-’00 class, which included point guard Erick Barkley.
HofstraIn the title game of the festival, St. John’s was not able to win. It was the first time the Johnnies lost the championship during the Norm Roberts era. Hofstra, who had won this festival in 1998 and 1999, got another notch on their belt as they upped the Johnnies, 63-51. This loss ended the St. John’s winning streak. Hofstra’s Antoine Agudio netted 24 points. Hamilton had 22 points and 10 rebounds, his 15th double-double of his career. “They came out and hit big shots,” Hamilton said. “We didn’t execute.”
DePaulThe Johnnies kicked off the start of Big East play with a 64-53 victory. The team was able to shut down DePaul guard Sammy Mejia, holding him to only eight points. The Red Storm’s defense kept DePaul’s offense underwater and coasted into the win, snapping DePaul’s five-game winning streak. Hamilton and senior guard Daryll Hill each had nine points. Eugene Lawrence had an effective game with eight points, eight assists, and 14 rebounds. After the loss against Hofstra, St. John’s was able to regroup. “This is a whole new year,” Hill said with a smile. “We have new players and it felt really good to win the game.”Hamilton joined the 1,000-point club, becoming the 43rd player to score 1,000 points or better in the history of St. John’s University men’s basketball. Aaron Spears returned in the DePaul game after being “suspended indefinitely” for a “violation of team rules.”
West VirginiaThe Johnnies suffered a disappointing loss against No. 25 West Virginia, 73-46. The Mountaineers created an 11-point differential, but the Johnnies fought back in the first half. St. John’s was able to bring the game within one, 20-19. However, in the second half, there was a lack of execution on the part of the offense and a difficulty in getting stops. Hamilton led St. John’s with 15 points in the loss.
Seton HallSt. John’s attempted to bounce back against Seton Hall but fell 79-63. Mason had his second double-double of the season with 22 points and 12 rebounds. He went eight of 13 from the field and was perfect from the free- throw line.
St. John’s has a long season ahead and they expect to regroup. Roberts is making moves with this program to help all players reach their highest potential and turn it kinetic. “My job is to get us to play our best basketball,” Roberts said after the NJIT victory. “My job is to develop our guys and make them better.”