Johnnies Roll Through Maryland Eastern Shore in Queens
*Credit: Nick Bello (The Torch)
Coming off of the first preseason tournament championship in eight years, (2010 Great Alaska Shootout) the St. John’s Red Storm (6-0, 0-0) continue their run of dominance through their non-conference schedule. This time, against the lowly Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks (1-6, 0-0) from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).
The star of the game in JUCO transfer L.J. Figueroa, finished the game with a double-double (25 pts, 13 boards). The sophomore forward recorded his second one this season. “He has great instincts, he really does, especially offensively. He has a really good nose for the ball for rebounds. … He has a really good feel for the offensive game. He’s got some things on defense that he needs to clean up, but he’s getting better. He’s got great energy. He’s a great kid. So he’s very coachable. A lot of those things he’ll get better at, but offensively he’s got really great instincts.” said Head Coach Chris Mullin.
After almost being embarrassed last week by Cal during the Legends Classic, and the contest against Bowling Green, the Johnnies made sure that they came out swinging for the fences against Maryland Eastern Shore and didn’t take their record into account. Mustapha Heron told New York Post’s Zach Braziller, “It’s basketball, on any given night there’s talented players all over the country.”
St. John’s began the game on a 9-0 run, that eventually led to an L.J. Figueroa-led 15-2 run, where he sank three triples. Throughout the first half, 13 helpers on 18 completed shots. Big East Preseason Player of the Year, Shamorie Ponds finished the half with a pair of points, and five assists. Figueroa finished the half with 16 points. Heron finished with 10 points of his own.
The Johnnies began extremely fast by shooting 52% from the field, and beyond the arc respectively. Seven points off turnover occurred for the Johnnies compared to a lone pair that the opposition had.
Maryland Eastern Shore’s A.J. Cheeseman, who is the team’s leading scorer, went 0-6 from the field and only notched a lone assist in 10 minutes of play in the first half.
The second half, is where things began to dwindle a bit for the surging Red Storm, and Chris Mullin wasn’t pleased about the latter half skid. “We could clean some things up. I think human nature took over and we got a little lackadaisical, but overall we did some good things.” Shooting only one-for-12 from downtown was definitely a downside, as Mikey Dixon notched the lone basket from deep. The largest lead of the game (28) was eventually narrowed to 15 later on, due to lack of urgency from the squad. “There are talented players all over the country. It doesn’t matter if it’s Division 1, 2, or 3. When you step on the court you play basketball, it doesn’t matter who said what the score was supposed to be. You have to come out and play every night.” says Mustapha Heron. The field-goal percentage dipped to 43.3%, with the team shooting 13-30 in the half.
The latter half of regulation the Maryland-Eastern Shore able to shoot over 50% from beyond-the-arc. It also saw a poster-like throw-down by Mustapha Heron, against Tyler Jones, to wake up a Carnesecca crowd that saw a dud of a second half from their team.
According to the analytics-based website, KenPom.com, the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks are ranked #346. There are 353 total teams ranked on the site.
L.J. Figueroa was asked about the level of competition that was scheduled for non-conference play “Coach [Chris Mullin] always tells us that we are going to set the tone no matter who we’re playing and to just to go out there and play the game that we know. We know what we need to work on, so it’s just setting the tone and going out there and playing hard.”
The 6-0 start for the Red Storm is the first one since the 2009-2010 season. St. John’s are seeking to start 7-0 for the first time since Felipe Lopez’s rookie season in 1994-1995.
The Johnnies travel to South Beach to battle Georgia Tech in the 2018 Citi Hoops Miami Invitational at American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, on Saturday at 12:00pm. The game can be seen on ESPNU.
After Georgia Tech, the schedule gets easier analytically speaking. Games against the Northeastern Conference become a reality, as the Johnnies do not leave New York for three weeks. They play host to Mount St. Mary’s, St. Francis Brooklyn, and Sacred Heart. St. John’s begins conference play on 12/29 against cross-river rivals Seton Hall Pirates in New Jersey.