Saturday, November 11, 2017

LoVett leads four in double figures as St. John's wins season opener

Marcus LoVett handled primary aggressor duties Friday, leading all scorers with 23 points as St. John's pulled away from New Orleans in season opener. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/St. John's University Athletics)

JAMAICA, NY -- Sweet, wonderful you
You make me happy with the things you do
Oh, can it be so
This feeling follows me wherever I go
- Fleetwood Mac, "You Make Loving Fun"

Winning makes everything better. And in the case of St. John's basketball, a cause célèbre for many in the New York area over the years, execution in even its simplest and most primitive form is enough to bring smiles to the faces of cynics and skeptics, incurable optimists and reserved revelers alike.

The Red Storm took care of that Friday night, using their talent advantage to pull away from the University of New Orleans in the second half, with separate runs of 13-3 and 14-2 keying a comfortable 77-61 final margin against the visiting Privateers, nullifying a minus-15 rebounding margin that will be talked about later by placing four players in double figures with a fifth in Justin Simon falling one point short. Simply put, in what has come to be known by this writer as a "BTO game," in reference to Canadian supergroup Bachman-Turner Overdrive and their timeless anthem "Takin' Care Of Business," (which will ultimately be reflected in one of these columns as an homage at some point) St. John's (1-0) did what was essential; minus the numbers on the boards of course, to secure a victory that was expected to be attained.

"I thought we played okay, but I thought it was a little choppy," Chris Mullin would say in his postgame press conference, surmising the overall efforts in a contest that officially raised the curtain on his third season as head coach. "We played a lot better in the second half even though we didn't shoot as well. They hammered us on the boards pretty good, (and) that's always a concern."

While winning the opener has made loving the Red Storm fun again on the corner of Union and Utopia, the commanding 42-27 rebound total that St. John's was on the short end of on the glass was glossed over in some respects by Mullin, who spoke on a macro scale by harping on the daily approach taken in practice and how it has led to incremental progress, striking a similar vein to the "hammer to rock" concept spoken of by his predecessor, Steve Lavin.

On the bright side, the man nicknamed "Bright Lights" came away with the strongest impression against a New Orleans team (0-1) who came to Queens as reigning champions of the Southland Conference, as Marcus LoVett led all scorers with 23 points on a night where Shamorie Ponds emerged as the primary distributor, or so his team-leading six assists may indicate. LoVett was the main beneficiary of Ponds and Justin Simon leading unselfishly, shooting 7-of-14 from the floor and connecting on five three-point field goals, a topic of conversation since 53.6 percent of the Red Storm field goal attempts Friday were made from beyond the arc.

"I think it's one of the personalities of our team," LoVett said of the team's affinity for the long distance shot. "We have guys who can shoot outside shots, but can also get inside and be versatile. We also have guys that can pick and pop, so it's about what we want to do as a team and what works best for us."

St. John's figures to have an easier test, on paper at least, when Central Connecticut comes down the New England Thruway on Tuesday, but the need to do better was planted firmly on the mind of one of the new additions to this year's squad just minutes after the final buzzer sounded.

"As a team we have to be better," said Marvin Clark II, whose 15 points in his official Red Storm debut matched a career-high set at Michigan State. "Just collectively as a team, we just have to figure out how to put a full, complete 40-minute game together. Once we do that, I think we'll be tournament-ready."

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