St. John’s this season has its best roster under coach Chris Mullin and all kinds of potential. The idea that it could be a 20-game winner, make a run at a Big East title, reach the NCAA Tournament or win some games there is plausible. Should any or all of those transpire, the Red Storm may look back on Wednesday night as a stepping stone.
St. John’s got a matchup against a solid St. Francis Brooklyn squad and put a start-to-finish hurting on the Terriers. The Storm came out with a high level of intensity and sustained it deep into what became a 86-52 non-conference win before 5,151 at Carnesecca Arena that ran its record to 11-0. The Storm didn’t let the other team hang around, didn’t need a big second half, didn’t let its foe back into the game.
Moreover, there were strong individual performances that bode well for St. John’s. Marvin Clark II set the tone with his intensity in breaking the game open early with a 24-7 run. Mikey Dixon came in early when starter Mustapha Heron got into foul trouble and scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half. And freshman Greg Williams Jr.had eight points on 4-for-5 shooting and made a case for an enhanced role in coach Chris Mullin’s rotation.
“I wouldn’t call it a step forward — it’s a step in the right direction,” said Clark, who had 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots including a highlight swat of Jalen Jordan’s dunk attempt in early in the second half. “We’ve been capable of playing at this level for a while. Tonight we just locked in mentally and that was the result. . . . Collectively as a unit and the way our points were spread out, I would say this was our best performance.”
St. John’s (11-0) now has its longest winning streak since the Walter Berry-led 1985-86 team had a 12-gamer and its biggest margin of victory this season. LJ Figueroa had 13 points and Shamorie Ponds added 12 for the Storm.
With the Big East opener at Seton Hall coming, the Storm looked ready for it.
“The Big East is getting closer so just as a team we’re just trying to lock in more,” Dixon said. “For these last couple games we want to play our best basketball going into the conference.”
Mullin was more muted about the effort, perhaps because he knows how much more the team is capable of. His response to inquiries about the progress: “I’m just not here to throw a party. We won. We move on.”
Clark had seven points and two blocked shots that led to baskets in the 24-7 run for a 26-12 lead. St. Francis (7-5), which got 11 points from Chauncey Hawkins, never got closer than eight points.
The senior started the season in a shooting slump but is 19-for-29 from the floor and averaging 15.0 points over the last four games.
“He’s one of the older guys on the team, a vet,” Dixon said. “His energy that he brings to the game — we follow that. When he comes out with that energy and momentum, we don’t have a choice but to go out and match his intensity. That’s what happened tonight.”
The 6-3 Williams had averaged 5.6 minutes in seven games but played 16 against the Terriers. He had six points including an scintillating dunk on Figueroa’s miss that was coming off the rim in an 11-0 second-half burst that made it 64-33 with 11:02 to play.
“He’s a spark, somebody we’ll be able to depend on,” Clark said. “He’s a different look for a lot of guards so I think he’ll be a big piece for us.”