Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Steve Lavin and St. John’s won’t have much time to recover from their early-morning West Coast loss to St. Mary’s.
After falling to the Gaels 76-71 in an ESPN game that began at 2 a.m. EST Tuesday, the Johnnies had to fly back East and prepare for their home opener Wednesday night with Columbia.
“We wanted to open with this sort of tough matchup, where you get a report card and you can really get to work. I liked our competitiveness and cohesiveness,” Lavin said. “Execution is where we struggled. We labored to score for some key stretches and allowed them to make some big shots. We like our basketball team and there are things we can do as a coaching staff to work on some things offensively, and clean up some things defensively with our zone and press.”
Freshman Dwayne Polee, a Los Angeles native, continued the national trend of frosh playing well by pouring in 16 points on 6 of 16 shooting. He added four boards, four steals, one block and an emphatic steal and run-out that resulted in a monster first-half dunk.
Senior point guard Malik Boothe scored a career-high 15 points, connecting on 5 of 8 field goals, and sophomore Malik Stith added 13 points. Justin Burrell collected seven rebounds.
Clint Steindl led St. Mary’s with 22 points and Matthew Dellavedova had 15 for a Gaels team that could be primed for another NCAA tournament run even without big man Omar Samhan.
There figures to be much pomp and circumstance surrounding the Johnnies home opener at Carnesecca Arena, but the Lions are no joke.
Under first-year coach Kyle Smith, Columbia is coming off a 108-74 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore in which former St. Benedict’s Prep and Peddie School star Steve Frankoski nailed five 3-pointers in a seven-minute stretch midway through the first half and finished with 19 points.
Former St. Joe’s of Montvale (N.J.) standout Noruwa Agho added 17 points and six assists and Brian Barbour tallied 14 points and five assists.
Lavin vs. Smith will feature a showdown between two first-year coaches in the New York area, with the Columbia coach looking to steal some of Lavin’s thunder and notch the upset.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.