QUEENS, N.Y. (Dec. 1, 2008) – With typical early-season upsets lighting up the out-of-town scoreboard all over the country this time of year, sometimes teams are simply relieved to pull out a win.
Just ask St. John's head coach Norm Roberts, who witnessed his squad play outstanding defense to build a 19-point first-half lead over St. Francis (N.Y.) on Monday night, only to nearly watch it evaporate in the second half.
Sophomore D.J. Kennedy had 17 points and 13 rebounds and St. John's held on for a 69-61 victory over St. Francis, N.Y. on Monday night, the Red Storm's 30th victory in their last 31 games against the Terriers. Kennedy made 4-of-8 field goals and 8-of-10 free throws to notch his second double-double of the season and fourth of his career.
"Our guys understand they have to play hard, and they understand we have to have contributions from everybody. Tonight we didn't have those contributions. Tonight we missed some shots, we missed some plays and then as young guys do we got frustrated," said Roberts. "When we got frustrated, our energy level wasn't where it needed to be. We have to learn from this game, watch film and understand. Our guys are pretty good at learning from their mistakes. We just have to keep teaching."
Classmate Paris Horne had 13 points and second-year floor general Malik Boothe added 12 with five assists for St. John's (6-1), which leads the series against its fellow New York City school 63-12. The only Terriers' win in the 31-game stretch came in 2004, on the night St. John's honored Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca by renaming the arena in his honor.
"I am happy with the fact that we won, but when you are up on a team like that at halftime you have to come out in the first five minutes of the second half and really set the tone and push the lead up more," said Boothe. "I think we could have played a little bit harder and smarter in the second half."
Added Kennedy, "When we started the game, we had a lot of energy, and that's how we got the big lead. In the second half we didn't come out with the same type of energy and that bothered us, and St. Francis was able to come out with some big shots and big 3's and we started to get down on ourselves. We just have to learn to keep playing through it and keep the energy up."
Ricky Cadell had 11 points for St. Francis (1-4), which trailed 61-48 with 7:33 to go but was able to get within 62-59 on a 3-pointer by Kayode Ayeni with 2:05 left. The Red Storm closed the game with a 7-2 run to win its fourth straight, all at home.
St. John's opened the game with an 8-0 run and closed the half the same way to take a 39-20 lead, marking its largest of the game.
The Red Storm continues what will be a six-game Carnesecca Arena homestand on Monday, Dec. 8, when NJIT makes the short trip to Queens for a 7:30 p.m. tilt. The following Sunday, Dec. 14, St. John's will play host to the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman at 4 p.m.
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