basketball Edit

Red Storm Pummels Albany, Improves to 10-2

Marcellus Earlington
Marcellus Earlington (Ravi Rozier)

JAMAICA, NY - It truly was next man up. That is a common phrase in sports. It’s what every team says when one of their best players can’t play, usually due to injury or eligibility issue. Sometimes a team can’t overcome the loss of an important player and things go downhill. Other times the team steps up to the challenge and the phrase becomes a statement of truth. St. John’s had a few players step up against Albany last night. They easily made their presence felt on the court and St. John’s won the game easily, defeating Albany 85-57.

The reason why those players needed to step up is because Mustapha Heron, one of the Red Storms top offensive players and a leader on the team, sprained his ankle last week and couldn’t play last night. The senior guard is currently day-to-day and is going through treatment for his injury with no return date set.

Marcellus Earlington came off the bench and filled up the stat sheet. The sophomore forward was a physical force, grabbing rebounds and finishing inside repeatedly. Earlington led the team with 16 points and 9 rebounds, just missing a double-double.

Greg Williams Jr.
Greg Williams Jr. (Greg Williams, Jr.)

Greg Williams Jr. also had a standout game. He made 3 three-pointers in the game, which was the first time in his career making more than one triple in a contest. Williams finished with 11 points and seems to be getting more comfortable on the floor. The sophomore is also getting healthier after not being able to work out in the preseason.

Both players come off the bench, and they pride themselves on doing the dirty work. They dive on the floor for loose balls, go inside and grab those tough rebounds, they make deflections on defense and have helped the Johnnies get to the position they are in right now. They call themselves the “Blue collar crew” and the way they have played all season has been impressive.

The bench may be one of the strongest parts of this year's team. Coach Mike Anderson routinely goes 10 players deep and has done that for the entire season. The reason why he can do that is when he puts a player on the floor, they generally do enough to ensure they won’t be banished to the bench. Coaches will only play someone if they trust them. It appears that the whole team has worked on gaining Anderson’s trust, therefore they get to see minutes on the floor.

St. John’s is now 10-2 and it’s the end of the so-called easy part of the schedule. They were picked to be near the bottom of the Big East, so some people may be surprised at what their record is now. However, the ultimate test begins in their next game when they travel to the west coast and play Arizona, currently the 16th ranked team in the country.

There is a lot of talent on that Arizona team. They have a couple of NBA prospects on the roster. They have the same 10-2 record as the Red Storm, but obviously more national appeal being a ranked team. To be fair, both of Arizona’s losses came to ranked teams, Baylor and Gonzaga, the latter currently #2 in the country. It will be a good test for the Johnnies on Saturday. They’ll get to see where they’re at as a team, even though they will probably have to play without Heron.

I have no idea how St. John’s will play. The talent and skill level of the competition really is going to rise on Saturday. The Johnnies have already knocked off a major conference team this season when they beat an undefeated West Virginia team at MSG a couple of weeks ago. West Virginia was a big team physically, but the smaller Johnnies outworked them and came away with a well-deserved victory. Can St. John’s do the same thing on Saturday?

The team is full of confident players, from the starters to the bench. Anderson has put them in positions where they can be successful. So far, he has proven to be worth the hire. The players seem to like playing for Anderson, which is nice to see. The Johnnies are in a good space and should have the right mentality to go into the “tough” portion of the schedule. After their quick trip to the left coast, they’ll have 10 days to recharge and get ready for the Big East. The Johnnies open against 17th ranked Butler at Carnesecca Arena on New Year’s Eve.

Now is the time where St. John’s can start to prove the media and other nay-sayers wrong. Williams says the team isn’t focused on what the outsiders say. I believe him and his teammates... a little bit. It’s human nature to want to prove other people wrong. The Johnnies might just be cursing all the doubters in private, but they know how to behave in front of the microphone, so we will never know.