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.
After Slow Start, St. John’s Cruises in Season Opener
NEW YORK –With about a minute and a half left in St. John’s game against William & Mary Monday night, Nurideen Lindsey cooly intercepted a crosscourt pass, took several dribbles upcourt and flushed home a dunk with nary a defender around him.
The play symbolized the second half for the Johnnies, who turned up the pressure after trailing 33-26 at the half and cruised to a 74-59 victory in the season opener of the 2K Classic played at Carnesecca Arena.
Lindsey scored 17 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, when the Red Storm outscored the Tribe, 48-26.
“I think in the first half, guys came out and were a little tight,” Lindsey said. “We were definitely excited about the game, but we didn’t come out ready to play.
“Second half, we loosened up and understood that defensively we had to turn it up a notch and get a little bit more intense into the game.”
God’sgift Achiuwa and Queens native Maurice Harkless added 17 points apiece and combined for 17 boards. D’Angelo Harrison chipped in with 14 points.
Quinn McDowell scored a game-high 20, including 4-of-8 from deep, for The Tribe.
St. John’s could not solve William & Mary’s 2-3 zone in the first half and struggled to make shots against the zone (10-of-31).
The Tribe, meanwhile, shot well against the St. John’s zone in the first half, going 7-of-21 from beyond the arc.
But St. John’s extended the pressure to halfcourt in the second half, forced nine second-half turnovers and got 12 fastbreak points after the break.
“It’s hard to stop a fastbreak layup,” Tribe coach Tony Shaver said.
Said Lindsey: “We put a lot of pressure on those guys in the second half defensively.”
Things began inauspiciously for the Johnnies.
Head coach Steve Lavin remains absent while recovering from prostate cancer surgery, leaving assistant Mike Dunlap to run the show in his stead. Lavin’s return date remains uncertain.
“I was over his apartment last week and he’s starting to get back to normal,” St. John’s adviser Gene Keady said. “He’s laughing a lot now, he walks a lot, he’s making some progress as far as getting back to a normal life, so we’re anxious to get him back.
“But coach Dunlap has done a tremendous job leading us, I can’t say enough about that.”
Assistant coach Rico Hines walks with crutches and a walking boot after suffering a torn Achilles’ during practice.
And the Johnnies have just eight scholarship players.
The Johnnies still have Arizona, Texas A&M or Mississippi State and Kentucky on their schedule in the next few weeks.
If the current group can keep it together through that stretch, they hope to get reinforcements in the form of 6-6 Amir Garrett and 6-10 Norvel Pelle at the semester break. The prep coaches for both players told SNY.tv they hoped to be on campus in December.
In the meantime, Lindsey wants his team to keep this momentum going forward.
“It’s great, first win of the season, first game of the season so it’s definitely a good feeling,” he said. “We just want to carry the second half momentum into Wednesday’s game [against Lehigh].”
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.