SJU Falls to Northeastern, 78-64
On paper, this looked like a game St. John’s would win. They were playing a mid-major at Carnesecca Area, where they have close to an all-time win percentage of 85 percent. This was only their second meeting in 85 years, since the 1925-26 season with St. John’s winning that game, 27-17.
However, Northeastern University had other ideas. The team has faced difficult matchups on the road in the recent season to toughen them up for the Colonial Athletic Association conference games. Teams like Virgina Commonwealth and George Mason play in it and have made a name for themselves in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies also have a seasoned backcourt duo in juniors Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith.
Smith erupted for a career-high 29 points and tied a school record, hitting 7 three-point shots on twelve attempts and paced Northeastern to a surprise win over the Johnnies on the Jamaica campus, 78-64. Smith came out and hit a trey seconds into the game, which set the tone that Northeastern (3-1) had come to play.
St. John’s (4-2) played the game without Coach Steve Lavin on the bench. He sat this game out due to what the school called a “modified” schedule as he recovers from prostate cancer surgery in early October. Lavin had coached two recent high-profile games at Madison Square Garden, and was apparently resting.
Mike Dunlap, the assistant coach, took his place on the bench. St. John’s looked sluggish in this game.
Northeastern, to their credit, was ready and outrebounded SJU 45-35 in the game. The Huskies also shot a scorching 59.3 percent in the second half, and hit 9 of 18 three pointers. St. John’s did rally from a 33-31 half-time deficit to take a slim 43-42 lead, with 13:41 to play. But the Huskies did not fold. They battled back to up the lead by 4, 59-55 with 7:45 in the second half. Northeastern then went on a run to take a 70-55 lead to take command of the game.
“I thought we got dispirited when they pushed back,” Dunlap said. Last year, St. John’s lost most of their team to graduation. Now, a highly touted freshman recruiting class predominates this team. “We know that that we still have a lot to learn,” said freshman starter God’sgift Achiuwa. Achiuwa led Red Storm with 17 points and Nurideem Lindsey, a talented guard, added 16 points to the board.
Northeastern controlled the tempo of the second half and played zone defense. The Red Storm only hit 2 of 16 three-point attempts. “We are a north-south team,” Dunlap said.
SJU has players who can move up and down the court, use the passing game to hit open players for makeable shots. That didn’t happen in this contest, as the Red Storm find that each game is a learning lesson. Their next one won’t be easy either. St. John’s faces red-hot Kentucky, having a very good start of the season, on the road in Lexington, Ky. #