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St. John’s Dominates Mississippi Valley State, 119-61, in Season Opener

 The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team recorded its highest single-game point total in more than three decades on Tuesday night, defeating Mississippi Valley State, 119-61, inside Carnesecca Arena.  

The Red Storm’s 60-point margin of victory was the largest for the program in just under 70 years, when St. John’s won the season opener of the 1951-52 campaign against Arnold College, 93-33.  The Johnnies’ 119 points were the most since St. John’s scored a school-record 135 points against Central Connecticut State on Nov. 24, 1990, in The Lapchick Tournament.  Aside from that game against the Blue Devils in which Malik Sealy poured in a then-Alumni Hall record 43 points, St. John’s has only tallied more than 119 points once in its history, posting 126 in the 1986-87 season opener against Southern.

Six St. John’s players finished in double figures, as the Red Storm shot a blistering 69.2 percent (45-of-65) from the floor, including a 13-for-25 (52.0%) showing from three-point range.  In addition to shooting 80.0 percent (16-of-20) from the free throw line, St. John’s also dished out 30 helpers on 45 made buckets, good enough for the program’s highest single-game assist total in at least 15 years.  The Johnnies finished just five assists shy of the school’s single-game record set on Jan. 7, 1973, in a 106-66 win over Dartmouth. 

St. John’s dominated on the boards, winning that battle by a 48-28 margin, including a 38-14 edge on the defensive glass. 

Unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team selection Julian Champagnie reached the 20-point plateau for the 14th time as a member of the Red Storm, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

Fellow Preseason All-BIG EAST honoree Posh Alexander showcased a new facet of his game, knocking down a career-high four triples on his way to an 18-point performance.  The reigning BIG EAST Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year shot 6-of-7 from the floor, including a 4-for-5 effort from three, in addition to tallying seven assists and three steals. 

Fordham transfer Joel Soriano posted a double-double in his first opportunity with the Red Storm, posting 11 points, 13 boards and a pair of blocks.  Soriano, who was a career, 61.5 percent free throw shooter in the Bronx, went 7-for-8 from the stripe against the Delta Devils.  Soriano, a native of Yonkers, has recorded double-doubles in 14 of his last 21 appearances dating back to the end of his freshman year. 

Freshman forward O’Mar Stanley impressed in his collegiate debut, scoring 14 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting effort and collecting six rebounds in only 20 minutes of action.

Graduate transfer Tareq Coburn, a career 40.3 percent 3-point shooter in three seasons at Hofstra, scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including a 3-for-5 effort from beyond the arc.

Another St. John’s newcomer, Montez Mathis, scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in his Red Storm debut.

Two more transfers, Stef Smith and Aaron Wheeler, tallied six points apiece in their first game as Johnnies.  Wheeler added six rebounds and four assists while Smith chipped in four rebounds and three assists.

Freshman Rafael Pinzon posted seven points and five assists while Esahia Nyiwe made both of his field goal attempts for four points and dished out two assists.

In just 12 minutes of action, sophomore guard Dylan Addae-Wusu tallied eight points, four rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists.

The Johnnies wasted no time on Tuesday night, starting the game on a 16-3 run and extending the lead to 20 for the first time by the nine-minute mark of the half.  Ahead by 28, 45-17, with five minutes to play in the opening stanza, St. John’s closed the half with a 14-1 tear and took a 41-point lead into the locker room.

Three straight 3-pointers from Champagnie and Alexander stretched the St. John’s lead to 51 just over four minutes into the second stanza.  St. John’s led by no less than 46 the rest of the way and widened its advantage to as many as 62 down the stretch.

St. John’s will return to action on Saturday afternoon when it plays host to Saint Peter’s at 4 p.m. inside Carnesecca Arena on FS1.  The Peacocks dropped their season opener on the road at VCU by just three points, 57-54.

Quotes:

St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson

Opening statement…

It’s been a long time since we’ve been in the gym and had fans. I first want to shout out our fans that showed up here tonight. There was energy in the building and I thought it got our guys off to a really good start. I was of the mindset that we wanted to come out and establish [ourselves] defensively. We really wanted to guard and rebound the basketball, and then on offense, let’s share the basketball. At halftime we had 18 points that we gave up. We had 23 field goals made and we had 15 assists, and we finished the night with 30 [assists]. That means we shared the basketball, but it goes back to our defense and the mindset. Our bench, hopefully, will really be a strong component of this basketball team. They scored 53 points tonight. We did what we were supposed to do. We had a size advantage, and we used that size advantage. It’s game one of a new season, and we’re excited to continue to play basketball.”

On having fans in attendance…

It makes a big difference. The adrenaline gets going. Here’s a guy in Dylan [Adae-Wusu]; I didn’t think he would play tonight. In the last couple days, he made some tremendous strides in his rehab and getting out on the floor, and I thought that had an effect on him. You saw him out there doing the things he does to help our basketball team. It makes a big difference.”

On the makeup of the team…

“We have potential. We have some guys that can do some things that we hadn’t been able to do. I like how we rebounded the basketball tonight. We have some guys that are older guys. They’re figuring out their roles with our basketball team. They all had some bright moments tonight. Joel [Soriano] played aggressive. I thought he was in attack mode. He rebounded the basketball. Stef [Smith] is just one of those guys; he’s just steady. He’s a steady guy. He does all of the little things, and you know he can shoot the basketball. They all had flashes. There’s still a lot of work to be done, without a doubt, but they all had some flashes. We just have to get better.”

On Tareq Coburn…

When you look at Tareq [Coburn], he can [score] in a hurry. I think he had of run of eight or nine points in a row. To me, he’s getting the chance to showcase his athletic ability. He [drew] back-to-back charges. I was more excited about that than the scoring. He kept the ball in front of him, and he got back-to-back charges guarding the ball. That’s a mature guy and an older guy.”

Sophomore guard Posh Alexander

 On his shooting…

I worked on my shooting a lot in the summer. I feel like I’m shooting well and building up my confidence. I focus on it in practice every day, so I just had to bring that to into a game setting.”

On his role with the team…

“I’m trying to be a leader. I trust my team and I want the team to trust me to take shots and facilitate on the offensive end. I want to get everyone involved and be a good teammate.”    

On adding veteran big men Joel Soriano and Aaron Wheeler…

Adding them is great. Having Joel [Soriano] on pick-and-rolls is great, no one can really get off his screens with his size. If people come towards me on a drive, I can drop it down to him. Aaron [Wheeler] on the pick-and-roll is helpful too, he can pick and pop then I can kick it out to him to make shots. They are both great players.”

Graduate student guard Tareq Coburn

On his first game at St. John’s…

“It’s a new style of play for me, but I like it. It feels like this is home already, I’m really cool with the guys and we have a strong brotherhood here. We play a very upbeat tempo and play at a fast pace. I think we have a lot to prove this year.”

 On the fan support…

“It was a great atmosphere. We had a lot of fans come out to support us. Thank you to the St. John’s community. … I’m blessed to have this opportunity to play for such a great program and extend my basketball career another year. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for my classmates in my physicians assistant [graduate] program. There were around 100 students from my program there supporting at the game, so shoutout to them too. I’m just happy to be a part of St. John’s.”

On what advice Head Coach Mike Anderson had for him during the game…

He told me to keep fighting, regardless of the score. He told me to keep playing my game no matter the competition. He said to just keep playing St. John’s basketball regardless of who we are going against.”

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