The Red Storm, led by freshman forward Justin Burrell, ignited the court and cruised to a 95-66 victory Wednesday, Nov. 7 over Molloy College in an exhibition game at Carnesecca Arena. Six players finished with points in the double-digits, as the upgraded St. John’s team left a crowd of 3,203 with hope for the 100th season of the men’s program.
Red Storm veterans guided the direction of the game as the new class of seven revved up the momentum, initiating the offense and executing plays quickly. Burrell and wingman D.J. Kennedy were the only freshmen to start.
Kennedy, who was not expected to play, replaced junior forward Anthony Mason, Jr. in the line-up, while Mason rested a minor ankle sprain.
“The moment was great playing in my first college game and getting a chance to start,” said Kennedy, who finished with 12 points, six boards and two steals. “Anthony Mason helped me out a lot. He told me to be confident and play just like I do in practice.”
Burrell, who scored the first basket of the night at the 19:02 mark of the first half off a feed from sophomore guard Larry Wright, finished with seven rebounds and a game-high 15 points.
Senior guard Eugene Lawrence and Wright stayed consistent, finishing with 13 points a piece. The freshmen joined their veteran counterparts, heavily impacting the outcome of the game.
Paris Horne finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals, as playmaker Malik Boothe finished with 10 points, hitting two threes, and dishing out a game-high six assists. Overall, the offensive contributions from the freshman class made up 68% of the team’s end score.
St. John’s easily went on a 10-0 run early in the first half. Kennedy shot a three off a feed from Lawrence, while Wright stroked the net with a midrange jumper before the Lions ended the scoreless streak with a pair of free throws.
By the 8:37 mark, St. John’s had already dug a double-digit deficit from which the Lions were unable to paw out. The first half ended in mirror points 52-25, St. John’s.
The Lions fought to recover from mistakes made in the first period, but the deficit made it difficult to come back.
St. John’s was up by as much as 34 points in the second half when Kennedy was sent to the charity stripe by Molloy’s senior forward/center Mark Pierre after grabbing an offensive board with 18:33 on the clock.
The Red Storm kept the high intensity from start to finish and was successful in the setting-up and execution of plays in transition.
But, the Johnnies became lackluster on defense as Molloy almost matched St. John’s in second half points, 43-41.
In a seven-minute stretch, Molloy was able to bring the deficit within 23 points due to the Lions’ fast-break lay-ups, midrange jumpers and three-point shooting. But even an energetic Molloy was too late to make the game shift in its favor.
“Molloy played a great game, they kept the intensity up, but we knew we had to match it because we knew they were going to come in here and try to get a win,” said Horne.
With the help of Burrell’s dominant role inside, St. John’s generated 20 points in the paint. The Johnnies’ quick hands out-rebounded the Lions 50-34 overall and forced 21 Molloy turnovers. St. John’s finished 32-of-72 from the field and shot 69.7% from the line.
“I think we played with pretty good energy. I just got finished telling the team all the fluff stuff is over– everything is for real now and we have to pay more attention to detail,” said head coach Norm Roberts. “It’s tough when you play a team like Molloy who essentially has five guards running around the floor. It was good for us to be out there.”