St. John's had one more test at home Wednesday night before traveling to North Carolina to face ACC rival No. 6 Duke this weekend.
The surging Johnnies (6-0, 0-0 BIG EAST) defeated Stony Brook 63-55, in a game where the score was not indicative of the strong, though unpolished effort St. John's put forth.
The Johnnies outlasted the Seawolves (5-2, 0-0 AM. EAST), climbing to a lead of as much as 18 points by the 2:18 mark of the second half, 57-39, following a 7-0 run. The surge included a three-pointer by D.J. Kennedy assisted by teammate Paris Horne and a tip-in by Justin Burrell (seven points) off an offensive board he grabbed.
Though Kennedy got off to a late start because of early foul trouble, the junior swingman scored 14 points in the second stanza alone en route to a game-high 19 points. He finished 5-for-8 from the field and 3-for-5 from the perimeter to go along with a 6-for-9 shooting effort from the charity stripe.
"I knew in the second half I had to come out more aggressive and just not worry about the fouls- that's what I tried to do," said Kennedy.
St. John's strong man-to-man defense kept Stony Brook from maintaining an offensive rhythm for 38 minutes of game play. Despite the Johnnies 15 turnovers, the Seawolves could only convert the errors into four points. On the other hand, St. John's matched the 16 Stony Brook turnovers with 16 Johnnies points.
During that time, St. John's prevented any of the Seawolves from achieving offensive fluidity, where not one player scored in double figures until the final two minutes of regulation.
No doubt, Stony Brook made it an ugly game for St. John's, forcing them out of the paint at times and cutting the 18-point advantage down to only eight just before the close of the game. Stony Brook sophomore guard Bryan Dougher nailed a few late three-pointers to finish with a team-high 13 points.
Stony Brook's senior guard Muhammad El-Amin finished with 11 points, scoring eight points in the final 49 seconds of regulation. Teammate sophomore forward Dallis Joyner also finished with 11 points.
"We needed to defend all the way to the end of the game," said head coach Norm Roberts. "It's part of a learning process for the young guys because I subbed those guys in."
Sean Evans played a huge role in the Johnnies first half set, picking up when the rest of his team, aside from Justin Brownlee (11 points), were not consistent on the offensive end. Evans, who has proven to be a consistent threat in the post, finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
The score was 30-20, at halftime, in favor of the Johnnies.
"Right now, everybody feels like we should have won by more, but a win is a win," said Kennedy. "Everybody just let it go, we're preparing for the next game, that game is over with, now we're looking forward to Duke."
And, Duke it is.
St. John's will hit the road Friday to meet the Blue Devils (6-1, 0-0 ACC) at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC. The teams will tip-off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
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