St. John’s University men’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin promised that this year the Red Storm would do something special.
But it certainly didn’t look that way in the Johnnies’ 2013-2014 pre-season debut, an exhibition game against the Division II San Francisco University State Gators on Saturday.
The Red Storm struggled throughout the game, shooting just 41.3 percent from the floor, while allowing the Gators to shoot 51.6 percent. The Johnnies, however, managed to escape with an 82-80 win.
“Clearly there are a number of aspects both defensively and offensively that we need to clean up,” Lavin said. “We went down the list of areas that we need to improve upon and then also gave them credit for having the resourcefulness to find a way to win on a night where things weren’t going well for us, and that’s an important trait.”
The Red Storm squeaked out the win due to junior guard D’Angelo Harrison’s big shots with seconds remaining. Harrison, who led the Red Storm by scoring 29 points, hit a mid-range jump shot over two defenders with 16.7 seconds left in the game to give St. John’s an 81-80 lead.
After a defensive stop on the ensuing play, Harrison was fouled and knocked down one of two free throws to expand the lead. With just 4.8 seconds remaining, the Gators took a final three-point attempt, but missed what would have been the game-winning shot.
“I don’t care what division it is, it’s hard to come back, especially the way they were playing and executing,” Harrison said. “It was good that we pulled it out.”
With 8:02 left to play, the Red Storm was trailing 73-65 and were forced to play catch-up. The Johnnies put together an 8-2 run to make the score 75-73 with just 5:54 remaining.
God’sgift Achiuwa, who returned after sitting out a year, lead the comeback with four points, two rebounds and one block. In his first game since the 2011-2012 season, Achiuwa totaled nine rebounds and eight points in 20 minutes.
Besides Achiuwa, newcomers senior Orlando Sanchez and freshman Rysheed Jordan played well throughout the game as well. Sanchez had nine points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals, while Jordan scored 16 points and had a big play in his college debut.
Down 80-77, Jordan ran the length of the floor and hit a crucial layup to pull the Johnnies within one point with 1:53 remaining.
“He was hype but at the same time he was calm,” junior guard Sir’Dominic Pointer said of Jordan. “He came out ready to play and he had a great game tonight. He came out and showed us what he could do. I expect a lot from him this season.”
With just six days remaining until the Red Storm face No. 20 Wisconsin on the road for their season opener, the Johnnies have just one more exhibition game against Humboldt State on Monday.
While the Red Storm believe they will be ready for the season opener, Lavin feels that it will take a while before they fully gel together.
“We are still two to three months away from playing our best basketball,” Lavin said. “But I think we could surprise some people along the way and get some wins, and maybe do better than some would think in that next two months.”