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St. John’s warms up for Wisconsin
No one will mistake Division II Humboldt State as a credible sparring partner for St. John’s, but if nothing else, the Red Storm got an ego boost and worked up a good sweat as it pounded the Lumberjacks, 106-39 Monday night at Carnesecca Arena.
The final tuneup for Friday night’s season opener against Big Ten power Wisconsin in Sioux Falls, S.D. went far more smoothly than Saturday’s nail-biting exhibition win over San Francisco State, a D-II rival of Humboldt. That one went to the final possession before St. John’s pulled out a two-point win.
There was no cause for concern against Humboldt, which shot 19.2 percent from the field (14-73) and 11.5 percent from three-point range (3-26). There also was no comparison to the size and defensive toughness the Red Storm will see from Wisconsin. The value of the final exhibition simply was the chance to beat up somebody other than each other in practice.
After the near-embarrassment against SFS, St. John’s ran up a 47-15 halftime lead Monday night. “We knew we had to come in and play hard,” Sir’Dominic Pointer said. “We didn’t play to our potential last game. As the coaches said, we had to keep sharing the sugar.”
Pointer ran the show in the second half while starters JaKarr Sampson (7 points-5 rebounds), Orlando Sanchez (6-10), Jamal Branch (9-2), D’Angelo Harrison (12-7-3 assists) and Rysheed Jordan (4-5-2) mostly watched. As he did last season, Pointer provided energy off the bench, made an impact at both ends and kept the backups organized while totaling 14 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and, most impressively, 9 blocked shots.
Center Chris Obekpa, who was suspended for both exhibitions because of a violation of university regulations, led the nation in blocked shots last season, but Pointer more than made up for his absence. “I think we’re going to be the leading shot-blocking team in the country once again,” Pointer predicted.
Nothing will come as easily again this season, but that’s what exhibitions are for. God’sgift Achiuwa, who redshirted last season after playing in 2011-12, obviously is raring to go as he showed with 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting and 8 rebounds, and newcomer Max Hooper found his fabled touch from three-point range, making 4 of 8 for 12 points.
Coach Steve Lavin has a much deeper roster this season and many more options than the past two years, but the end of the game was a reminder of how valuable Pointer can be in his bench role. “Coach is looking for me to lead,” Pointer said. “He wants me to play a little point guard. I was making sure things didn’t get out of control and keeping everybody calm.”
Pointer said the subject of Wisconsin didn’t come up until after the Humboldt game. “We need a couple days to focus on Wisconsin,” Pointer said. “We’re going to be hyped and ready to play hard.”