After squeaking out a one-point victory against Saint Peter’s the night before, the St. John’s men’s basketball team provided no such drama on Thursday afternoon, downing La Salle, 82-65, to improve to 2-0 on the season and win The Lapchick Tournament title.
The pressure defense for which Head Coach Mike Anderson is so well known was on full display inside Carnesecca Arena, as the Red Storm recorded 16 steals and forced 26 La Salle turnovers. That latter total marked the highest by a St. John’s opponent in more than 15 years, when Maryland Eastern Shore turned the ball over 30 times in the opener of the 2005-06 campaign.
St. John’s has now won the Lapchick Tournament title 21 times in 22 tries dating back to 1975 and holds a record of 43-1 all-time in the event.
After logging 21 points on Wednesday night in his Division I debut, Vince Cole led the Red Storm in scoring once again, netting 19 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. The former NJCAA All-American went a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line, pacing a St. John’s squad that sank 20 of its 24 tries from the charity stripe on the afternoon.
Marcellus Earlington scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting while Greg Williams Jr. added 13 points and four boards.
Freshman Dylan Addae-Wusu reached double figures in just his second collegiate game, scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in addition to grabbing six boards.
Isaih Moore filled up the stat sheet for the second straight day, finishing with nine points and a game-high seven rebounds. Posh Alexander also made his presence felt, tallying eight points, four assists and three steals.
Josh Roberts made the most of his first start this season, tallying four points, four boards and a career-best four steals in 17 minutes of action.
John McGriff made his St. John’s debut against the Explorers, sinking a 3-pointer and coming away with two steals.
Playing without the services of their top returning scorers from last season in Rasheem Dunn and Julian Champagnie, the Red Storm set the tone defensively in the early going, holding La Salle scoreless for the game’s first three and a half minutes, a stretch that featured four Explorer turnovers.
Despite struggling to find the bottom of the bucket with regularity, La Salle managed to keep it close, pulling within two on three separate occasions near the midway mark of the opening period.
St. John’s then used a 7-1 run to take its largest lead of the half, 22-14, with 6:48 to go. Cole knocked down his only 3-pointer of the afternoon on the run and Moore threw down a thunderous two-handed slam.
Leading by six, 34-28, at the break, St. John’s came out of the locker room swinging and quickly built its lead to double digits for the first time this season, 43-33, following a Roberts layup at the 17:23 mark.
With the lead back to six just over a minute later, the Red Storm unleashed a 17-5 run to move ahead by 18, 60-42, with 12:07 to play. Earlington sank a pair of 3-pointers on the St. John’s spurt.
The Explorers would not go quietly, unleashing a 13-2 tear of their own to trim the St. John’s advantage back to single digits, 69-61, with four minutes to play. The Johnnies responded by scoring eight of the game’s next 10 points, erasing any hope of a La Salle comeback.
The Red Storm will return to action on Monday when the team heads to Mohegan Sun for a showdown with former BIG EAST rival Boston College. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPNU and AM 970.
La Salle and Saint Peter’s will play one another at Carnesecca Arena on Friday afternoon to determine the runner-up of The Lapchick Tournament.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“As you can see, the towel is in honor of John Thompson. It is a tribute to the legend, Coach John Thompson. May he rest in peace. As for the game, we got better. We got better from our performance yesterday in some areas and in some areas we didn’t. It was good to see some guys come off of the bench and give us a lift. We put Josh [Roberts] in the starting lineup and I thought he gave us some athletic ability and of course, Vince [Cole], he was in the starting lineup as well. I thought some guys came off the bench and gave us some great minutes. Marcellus [Earlington], I thought he came in and played like the Marcellus that we know he is capable of playing like. So, again, for the most part I just thought that we got better. As for La Salle, I thought they were gritty and they have a lot of guys that can really shoot the basketball, so our concern was making sure we ran those guys off of the [three-point] line. But at the end of the day, we did what we needed to do in such a short turnaround so I told our guys that I was proud of them and we just need to continue to get better. We have to shore up the turnovers. I thought that we had a lot of live-ball turnovers that are uncharacteristic, you know, they put a little bit of pressure on us and I thought we kind of handed them some easy buckets. But hey, it’s early, and we have to continue to move forward and get guys ready to play. When you have two guys that started for you all of last year that are out, you are asking a lot of the newcomers and some of those guys are responding in the right way.”
On how the team’s defense improved from the last matchup vs. Saint Peter’s…
“Last night and tonight too I said to them that we have to get second, third, fourth efforts and that we have to create our own energy and I thought that is what you saw. You saw guys going out and deflecting a lot of passes and getting out to the shooters to make them drivers. We did a much better job of protecting the lane and came up with a lot of loose balls. I thought we did the things that we normally do and so, from that standpoint, we took our practice to the game.”
On the importance of having depth…
“We saw it today. Josh [Roberts], he played limited minutes yesterday and today he comes in and I thought his presence out there was big for us whether it be offensive rebounds or protecting the paint. I thought he played with that passion that you have got to have. John [McGriff], you know, he may have earned that four or five minutes he played, but those minutes were quality minutes for our basketball team. He came out and hit his first three-pointer and gave us some big minutes at the end of the half. Then, Marcellus [Earlington], he gave us good minutes. That is what I talk about when you can have some balance. You have the starters that do their thing, and then another wave coming off the bench and doing their thing, and hopefully that plays to our advantage and to our game strategy as a matter of fact.”
On the team’s controlled energy in the second half…
“I thought that we countered their energy after they had some wide open shots. I thought we were where they were in the first half. I thought the depth, the energy, the conditioning, had a part to do with taking them out of what they wanted to do as well. In the second half I thought we were able to come out and get a lead and just start playing not to lose. But I loved it because I saw the spurts that we can have. The way that we play is a game of runs, and I don’t know what those runs were, but we had some opportunities where we had multiple stops and were able to cash in on the opposite end. Like I said, we had some bad turnovers early-on, and you can say some of it is on nerves, but some of it was on making bad decisions. I always tell our guys ‘You can make a mistake, and that is going to happen, but it is about what do you do to try and make up for it.’ I think that Posh [Alexander] is a perfect example of that. He turned it over a couple of times that he knew he made a bad decision, but he went and got it back. A guy can make a bad decision and lose the ball and get it back. That is a lot of energy and an instinctive play.”
On how the returning players stepped up…
“I talked about those guys [Greg Williams Jr. and Marcellus Earlington] picking up where they left off. They are in different roles now and it is expected of them, so to see them come out and play well, it gives the new guys even more confidence in the potential of their basketball team and we have two double figure scorers who are not even on the floor right now. I think it speaks to the potential of this team, and when those guys are going right it makes it even easier for the new guys to step in line and do what they bring to the table so I think it’s good to see that and it will be a work in progress throughout the year. If we can get all of them playing at a certain level, we can become a dangerous team.”
On the performance of Vince Cole over the first two games…
“He has played with poise and can get buckets, he is a scorer. He can create his own shot, you saw him get in the lane and just pull-up, shooting teardrops and then on defense, I have seen him get more in-tune with what we are doing and just remember this is only game two. He comes with a reputation of a guy that is a big-time scorer, but what I am liking now is his poise, decision-making with passing, and he is finding his way and that is big for this basketball team. You have got to have someone that you can go to for a bucket and he is one of those guys.”
On Rasheem Dunn’s status…
“He took a great spill last night and got some stitches and is in the concussion protocol, but he is home right now resting. He went to the hospital and went through all of the procedures there, but he is in concussion protocol.”
On Julian Champagnie’s status for Monday’s game vs. Boston College…
“We will see. I think he is probably still in the treatment part of it right now and we will see when we practice on Saturday how he is doing and he will be a gametime decision.”
St. John’s Junior Guard/Forward Marcellus Earlington
On the strong performance by the returning players …
“The newcomers, Dylan [Addae-Wusu], I love him to death and he played his heart out. Posh [Alexander] is a dog, Isaih [Moore], you know Vince [Cole] is a good scorer and our newcomers did a great job and we just wanted to feed off them. I had a talk with Greg [Williams Jr.], Josh [Roberts] and everybody that was returning and I said we have to play better, plain and simple. You know we have been here, we are in the system, we are comfortable here and were just trying to play our game and that’s what we did today.”
On the defensive intensity…
“Very important, that’s what we pride ourselves on, our defense. A lot of people were scrambling, we were getting a lot of deflections, we always keep tally of our deflections. A lot of people getting deflections, crashing the glass. We were just doing everything that Mike [Anderson] wanted us to do, and that’s what ended in a victory.”
On the team’s energy level from last night to today’s game…
“We expressed it among ourselves too that we had to come out with energy. It was their first game, it was going to be emotional for them. We got the jitters out yesterday, and we are stilling learning how to play with each other but today, energy can outweigh a lot and we came out with a lot of energy and we finished with energy.”
On the adjustment of playing with no fans…
“It was a different atmosphere. We are used to playing with fans and having that advantage. So it was a first time for everybody. I think we got comfortable, we got the jitters out and then it came down to hooping and that’s something we do every day. Once we got the jitters out I feel we played a lot better.”
On the team’s depth while without Julian Champagnie and Rasheem Dunn…
“It showed a lot. Next man up, that’s what Coach [Anderson] preaches, next man up. We all practice hard, we all put a lot of time in and we all have faith in each other, we all trust each other and we know if we play together and play the way Coach wants us to play that we can beat anybody.”
On Greg Williams Jr.’s play early in the 2nd half…
“He started it for us. It was momentum and he was aggressive. We always tell Greg that he is one of the most explosive players in college basketball and to use that to his advantage and be aggressive. He set the tone for the first half, especially the first five minutes and that tone carried throughout the game. He was just hustling everywhere; I am super proud of him.”
On Vince Cole’s performance at St. John’s so far…
“We all knew Vince [Cole] was a scorer. He showed it a lot in practice. He is a person that works very hard on his game. He was made for this, we fed off of him, he picked us up a lot he hit a lot of big shots, he was distributing the ball, he was doing everything right the last two games. I just hope he keeps playing like that because he has been doing great.”
On he and Dylan Addae-Wusu trying to wear down opponents front court….
“We always talk about using our size to our advantage. We are strong players, so just getting out there and doing things we need to win. We are both great charge-takers, we both talk a lot on defense and that’s really like mini-me to me. He is a great player and I am glad we have him.”
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