Working overtime

College athletic teams are allowed one international trip every four years. So when the St. John’s men’s basketball team traveled to Canada over Labor Day weekend, the club figured they would make the most of it.

The team played four games in the span of two days against some of the more successful collegiate Canadian clubs, en route to four wins in 32 hours.

“I thought the trip was great,” head coach Norm Roberts said of the Red Storm’s wins over in a video inteview that appeared on the Red Storm’s Facebook page. “I thought our guys played really hard to fight through some adversity, with some tough situations and tough crowds. We really made plays when we needed to.”

The Red Storm played with a
relatively thin bench, as fifth-year senior
Anthony Mason, Jr. was nursing a
hamstring injury and did not appear in any of the weekend’s games. In
addition, junior forward Dele Coker had problems with his travel visa and did
not make the trip.

St. John’s depth was also hurt by
injury. After the team’s first day of play, junior forward Justin Burrell had suffered a hand injury that kept him out of Sunday’s play and Quincy Roberts left the Red Storm’s second game against
UQAM with a mild concussion in the second quarter.

That left the field open to the rest of the club, who played within an open
offensive system free of the set plays the team runs during the regular season.

“[The open offense] opened up the court so we could show off our individual ball-handling, shooting, all that,” junior guard Paris Horne said in his video diary Around the Horne, that also appeared on the Red Storm’s Facebook page. “It was basically to show our talent.”

And with the floor open to any
offensive opportunity at any time, the
Red Storm had its first opportunity to see what the team’s four rookies could bring to the 2009-10 team.

“They’re all incredible,” Horne said of the newcomers in his video blog. “I think they’re all going to help this team
tremendously. We were depleted a little bit and they all stepped up and
came through.”

In the team’s first game against McGill University, the Red Storm erased an
eight-point deficit with a 40-6 run in the second half. Eleven players scored and two players – rookie guards Malik Stith and Dwight Hardy – played more than 25 minutes.

Juniors Malik Boothe and D.J. Kennedy each scored 10 points,leading the team, and returnees Quincy Roberts, Horne, Stith, and rookie Justin Brownlee had nine each. The
Red Storm rolled 90-55.

Over the next two games, the Red Storm was introduced to the scoring prowess of Hardy, who broke out with 20 points on 8-14 shooting against UQAM and 18 points on 7-10 shooting,
including 4-5 from three-point range
against Carleton the next day.
Not to be outdone, Junior forward Sean Evans scored 17 points and pulled nine rebounds against UQAM as the Red Storm made Saturday night’s game a team affair. Five players scored in double figures in the 104-62 rout.

“Our conditioning is not what you want it to be yet, but I thought our guys got after it and really competed,” Roberts said after Saturday’s games. “We got off to a slow start this afternoon, but then our defense picked up. I liked the play of a lot of our guys. All of our guys gave us good minutes at different times.”

The second day of basketball would not prove as easy, as the Red Storm faced the Carleton University, winners of six of the last seven Canadian CIS
Championships, and No. 5 Ottawa.

The Red Storm applied heavy
defensive pressure and went on a 27-6 second half run to overcome a
34-30 halftime deficit against Carleton,
relying on Hardy and Kennedy, who scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Later that night, the Red Storm used just eight men against Ottawa,
compared to the ten players that
contributed minutes against Carleton.

Despite a 22-point outburst from
Ottawa’s Warren Ward, the Red Storm countered with 14 points from both
Evans and Horne, and Brownlee had 11
points on 5-10 shooting.

The Red Storm held off the Gee-Gees in the game’s final defensive possession for a 74-73 win.