St. John's 82, UMBC 59
Nurideen Lindsey came so close to basketball's statistical standard for a great game. What mattered most was that he and his teammates didn't need to rally for another win.
Lindsey missed a triple-double by one assist and St. John's pulled away to an 82-59 victory over Maryland-Baltimore County on Sunday.
The Red Storm's first two wins this season featured second-half comebacks and everybody connected with the young team was hoping for a different script to Sunday's game and they got it.
''We were all trying to go in same direction early. That's something we talked about the last couple of days,'' Lindsey said. ''It had to be not always playing from behind, but come out with more aggression and I think we did a good job of that.''
The sophomore junior college transfer had 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Red Storm (3-0). He had 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds at the half when St. John's was leading 39-34.
''I think there was a breakthrough in terms of our sustained energy and intensity,'' Red Storm coach Steve Lavin said of the start that might not have looked impressive with just a five-point lead, but was a sign of a team with just one returning letter-winner starting to learn quickly. ''There were things from an execution standpoint that we can clean up and some were positive mistakes. We took a step forward in terms of sustaining our effort and intensity. That was a mature point for this time of the season,''
Moe Harkless led St. John's with 18 points while D'Angelo Harrison had 17, Gods'gift Achiuwa 15 and Malik Stith 11.
Stith, the only returning player from last season's team that advanced to the NCAA tournament, had seven points in the 9-1 run to open the second half. Stith's start included his first 3-pointer of the season.
''Overall it gave our team a huge lift,'' Lindsey said of Stith's personal run. ''His offensive aggression translated over to the defensive side and him being our leader we need that every night. It helps us play hard and play like he does,''
Joey Getz made UMBC's first field goal of the second half to make it 48-37 with 15:53 to go, but 11 points was as close as the Retrievers got the rest of the way as the Red Storm started to use their athleticism to score on fast breaks, several of which ended with dunks.
St. John's biggest lead was 82-50 on a dunk by Harkless with 3:09 to go. This looked nothing like the wins over William & Mary and Lehigh.
The last triple-double for St. John's was by Ron Artest, now known as Meta World Peace. He had 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists against Seton Hall on Jan. 9, 1999 at Madison Square Garden.
''I played with Ron this summer in a summer league game in L.A.,'' Lindsey said. ''He's a good guy. A cool guy.''
Lindsey was asked about that one assist.
''I tried,'' he said with a laugh before agreeing that maybe the stat crew just missed a successful pass.
Brian Neller had 13 points to lead UMBC (0-2).
''I felt the first half we played good basketball,'' UMBC coach Randy Monroe said. ''We did a good job of moving the basketball around and getting players to certain spots on the floor. I have to give St. John's credit for the second half. I don't think we were being as competitive as we needed to be. I thought we were playing to hold on. That was disappointing because I was hoping to see the same effort in the second half that we saw in the first half. ... Once again, you have to give the players at St. John's credit for the win. ''
The Red Storm now move into one of the toughest schedules in the country. Starting with No. 16 Arizona on Thursday night in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, St. John's will play three teams in The Associated Press' preseason poll, six against the top 10, eight against the top 20 and 11 against the Top 25.
''We're like a locomotive just pulling out of the station,'' Lavin said. ''I hope each practice and game gets a us a little more steam so that in February and March we can be going at full speed. But that's a long way down the track. We passed this exam and they get much tougher down the line.''
Harrison joked that the only difference between this game and the first two was that the team ate its meal earlier and nobody was allowed to take a pregame nap.
''We'll pick it up even more against Arizona,'' Harrison said. ''Nobody looks down when we're down and that's not necessarily a good thing, but we think we come back, always. Every time we play I feel is like a game to get better. We have to stay positive even if we start slow against Arizona.''
This was Lavin's second game back on the bench after undergoing prostate cancer surgery on Oct. 6. This time the Red Storm made it easier on him by taking a 20-point lead with almost 9 minutes to play.
''Today was definitely a smoother experience than the first game back against Lehigh,'' Lavin said. ''I'm still in the process of recovering from surgery and that's what's really most important. How do you recover from one game to the next. To feel the stamina and do it again. Just like a team. It takes a lot of energy. Today I was in a better place as a coach because I got the first one out of the way.''
And now there is Arizona.
''It will be under the lights at Madison Square Garden and playing a top-20 team so there will butterflies,'' Lavin said. ''It will be a. lot different taking the floor there than at Carnesecca Arena. In the first 5 minutes it will be natural to have the adrenaline going and then see how we will channel that in terms of being successful.''