St. John’s loses by 32 to Division II team

Chris Mullin and the Red Storm were handed a 32-point loss by a Division II team in the first of two exhibition games.
Brad Penner/Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A 32-point loss to a Division II opponent wasn’t expected to be part of St. John’s rebuilding plan in the first year of the Chris Mullin era.

But on Wednesday night, St. Thomas Aquinas College, located Sparkill, New York, thoroughly dominated from start to finish, defeating the Red Storm, 90-58, inside Carnesecca Arena.

St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Tobin Anderson, a former assistant at Siena, returned five of his top seven scorers from a team that won 21 games last season. St. Thomas Aquinas is accustomed to playing Division I opponents. The Spartans held a late first-half lead in an exhibition game against St. John’s last season. Two weeks later, Gonzaga handed them a 55-point loss.

With an opportunity against a vulnerable Division I opponent, one located 32 miles away from their campus, the Spartans pounced, forcing 27 turnovers which resulted in 32 fast break points.

Justin Reyes led the way with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Chaz Watler, the team’s top scorer from a season ago, added 18.

Freshman Federico Mussini, the only true ball handler available, led St. John’s with 16 points.  Christian Jones, who earned a starting spot in the second half, recorded a double-double of 13 points and 11 boards in 19 minutes of action.

St. John’s entered the preseason contest shorthanded, although that’s not a reason for the outcome. Freshman point guard Marcus LoVett and freshman forward Kassoum Yakwe sat out, as both are still waiting to be cleared by the NCAA. Felix Balmaou, who averaged 1.6 points per game through his first three seasons, also missed the game with an arm injury.

The Red Storm has a few days to lick their wounds and review film before they host Sonoma State, a Division II team from California, in their final exhibition game on Saturday.

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