The St. John’s men’s basketball team played a streaky game, but kept level-headed and ultimately grinded out a 68-56 win over Long Island University last Wednesday, Nov. 28, at Carnesecca Arena. The Johnnies improved to a 4-0 record for the first time since the 2002-2003 season, while the Blackbirds dropped to 3-2 overall.
Freshman forward Justin Burrell finished with his third-straight double-double, reaching a game high 19 points and 12 boards. Freshman wingman D.J. Kennedy, who had his fourth start of the season, came up big being only one rebound short of a double-double. He closed out the game with 18 points, nine rebounds and a game high five steals.
Sophomore guard Larry Wright’s playing time was clipped to only 19 minutes. Roberts said Wright complained of a hurting hip which he may have bumped in practice or diving for loose balls in the LIU game. Wright finished with 10 points.
“We had guys that were beat up and guys that had things not going their way but we stayed strong and we came out with a victory,” head coach Norm Roberts said.
It was a rough forty minutes as St. John’s struggled to find an offensive flow and develop proper execution. There was a drought from three-point land and the wet jumper was reduced to a slow drip. But, the young Red Storm team pooled their resources of depth and composure to find a rhythm in the cacophony.
“It was one of those nights for us where we couldn’t make a shot,” said Roberts. “We kept missing shots, we kept missing plays and got a little sloppy with the basketball as well, [but] you are going to have nights like that. We persevered and we did whatever we had to do to win the game.”
Junior forward Anthony Mason, Jr. played in his first game of the season after sitting out the first three games due to an ankle sprain. Mason, Jr. re-aggravated the injury when he followed-up on a put-back and came down on LIU’s guard Jaytornah Wisseh, after only 20 minutes of play.
The Red Storm was up by as much as six points at the 1:53 mark of the first half, but shifted that to a 14-point lead with 1:12 remaining in the game.
St. John’s had the will and found a way to restructure their concept of offensive strength taking the ball inside to score when outside shots were not dropping. They stayed active off the glass out-rebounding the Blackbirds 44-35. The Johnnies scored 63% (43-of-68) of their points in the paint.
“Some nights you are dead,” Roberts said. “That’s when you really have to rely on playing defense and getting stops, rebounding the ball and trying to manufacture baskets [and] I thought guys came up big when we needed them.”
“[The team] didn’t turn anything into a negative,” added senior guard Eugene Lawrence. “They kept their head up and kept playing until the end of the game. It’s a sign we’re moving into the right direction.”