Thursday, November 21, 2019

St. John's Surges Past Columbia

      Whether coach Mike Anderson and his St. John’s team found themselves trying to gain traction after a tough loss to Vermont last Saturday, or gain some momentum as they get ready for a road test against the Arizona State team that knocked them out of last year’s N.C.A.A. Tournament, it’s likely they got exactly what they needed last night.

     “Our guys came out with a sense of urgency and we kept that sense of urgency throughout the game”, Anderson said of his team’s 82-63 win over Columbia at Carnesecca Arena last night. “Guys came off the bench to give us some quality minutes.  It was a good team win we did a much better job taking care of the basketball.”

   Two first half runs, one of 11-0 and the other of 8-0 proved to be decisive for St. John’s.  They took a 25-7 lead at the end of the second run and were able to push the margin to 49-27 at the intermission. Rasheem Dunn scored all of his 14 points in the first half after coming off the bench.

“To me he’s a starter”, Anderson said of Dunn. “It’s not about starting it’s about getting quality minutes and what you do with those minutes. And you can see how Rasheem impacts our team. He’s a threat on offense and he’s tenacious on defense. And he’s a team player”
      Dunn’s impact on the game did not stop when his scoring ended. He added 3 rebounds, a team high 3 assists and 3 steals. One of the assists came during a stretch early in the second half when freshman and fellow Brooklynite Julian Champagnie helped St. John’s regain their footing after Columbia went on 11-4 run as the second half began. With St. John’s lead trimmed to 15 points Champagnie scored 9 straight points to push the lead up to 24. The run included his only 3 pointer of the game and a nice transition basket set up by an over-the-shoulder flip from Dunn.

                St. John’s would finish the game with its most balanced stat sheet of the young season. Mustapha Heron would lead the way with 15 points with Dunn and Champagnie each adding 14. LJ Figueroa and David Caraher added 9 each. And as they have all season long, sophomores Josh Roberts and Marcellus Earlington provided needed energy and physicality off the bench. Roberts finished with 11 rebounds and 3 blocks while Earlington had 8 points and 8 boards.”

   “This team is growing right before our eyes”, Anderson said as he assessed the team’s progress, “Guys are starting to figure out what it takes to compete at this level and they’re starting to figure out they’re not just a two man team.”
   According to Heron, the new coach told the team that while some of them lost to Arizona State to end last season, this was “a new year and a new mindset”. Clearly Anderson and his staff have set a tone that the team has embraced. A win on Saturday would be a terrific step forward for the Johnnies and perhaps start them towards a return visit to the Big Dance.

Notes And Observations: Tonight, there’s just one and it’s a nod of appreciation for the great effort given by Columbia’s senior guard Mike Smith. The Illinois native finished with a game high 20 points as well as 9 rebounds and 6 assists combined with just 1 turnover in 37 minutes. On enemy territory playing against relentless pressure he played with poise and confidence. Even though he played fast he never got sped up. Here’s wishing him good luck for the rest of the season.                                  

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