St. John’s and Seton Hall both pulled out exhibition wins to open the 2013-14 season Saturday night, although the Johnnies’ win was a little too close for comfort.
Junior guard D’Angelo Harrison drained a 15-footer that gave the Red Storm an 81-80 lead over Division II San Francisco State with 17 seconds remaining and finished with a game-best 29 points as St. John’s came back from eight points down to win, 82-80, at Carnesecca Arena.
Harrison connected on 8-of-15 field goals, made 3-of-6 3-point attempts and fired at a 10-of-12 clip from the free throw line. Big East Preseason Rookie of the Year Rysheed Jordan scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including drilling his only shot from long-range. The lone freshman also contributed four rebounds, four steals and three assists.
“Clearly there are a number of aspects, both offensively and defensively, that we have to clean up,” head coach Steve Lavin said. “While that’s discouraging, the good news is they are correctable flaws. Postgame we went down the list of areas that we need to improve upon, yet the kids deserve some credit for having the resourcefulness to find a way to win when things weren’t going well for us, and that’s an important trait. Coach Wooden always said he’d rather be ahead than behind, rather be lucky than unlucky and would rather win than lose.”
Big things are expected from Jordan in Queens this season, when the Johnnies expect to contend for the Big East championship and for an NCAA Tournament berth.
“We’re still two or three months away from our best basketball, but I think we can surprise some people along the way,” Lavin said.
The Johnnies will be tested right away when they travel to face No. 20 Wisconsin on Friday in South Dakota.
“We’re going to get ready to play and compete,” Lavin said. “We’ll have a better idea of ourselves after that game.”
Meantime in South Orange, N.J., in his first on-court appearance for Seton Hall, former Texas guard Sterling Gibbs led all scorers with 15 points and added a game-high four assists against only one turnover as the Pirates beat D-2 Caldwell College, 67-49.
Senior big man Eugene Teague added 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting and grabbed seven boards. Swingman Brian Oliver knocked down four treys and finished with 12 points to go with five rebounds and three blocks.
Forward Patrik Auda returned to the floor after missing the final 27 games of the 2012-13 campaign with a foot injury and added six points and 11 boards.
“Defensively we were much better than I thought we were going to be and offensively we will get better,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “That is not my biggest worry; we will calm down and get better offensively.
“We obviously have a lot of work, but I knew that going in. It was a matter of having six guys that never played for you. I think we had a lot of nerves, and we also practiced pretty hard the last couple days. I like where we are defensively, but I know we will get better offensively. “
Caldwell College was coming off a 90-60 loss to Rutgers on Friday night in which Myles Mack went for 16 points, J.J. Moore had 14 and Kadeem Jack added 11 points and eight boards.