By Anthony Bosco
It may not have been the blowout some fans were expecting, but head coach Mike Jarvis wasn’t about to complain with the result Saturday night, when his St. John’s Red Storm defeated the Stony Brook Seawolves, 72-55, in the opener for both teams.
Stony Brook was the unwitting subject of the new St. John’s experiment, which featured Jarvis shuttling in 11 players during the first half, part of a plan to figure out just what kind of weapons he has.
Stony Brook head coach Nick Macarchuk understood the reason, even though it certainly didn’t help his team any.
“Them shuffling those players hurt us,” Macarchuk said. “They’re similar. They’re all athletic and they all take the ball to the basket. It’s Noah’s Arc. They have two at every position. What [Jarvis is] doing, I think, is he’s trying to find out combinations right now. I think Mike’s experimenting. I think he’s got some questions he need answer for and he feels he’s going to use these non-conference games to make some decision.”
Jarvis said that the use of so many players had to do more with how the individual players worked in practice.
“The length of the bench depends on the guys,” Jarvis said. “I think we got 10, 11 people that on any given night, those guys can play. We got a lot of people that can and will contribute. A lot of guys did a lot of different things tonight. A lot of guys didn’t play as well as they can and in a way that’s a positive thing too. We got good balance and good depth.”
Early on, however, it was the defensive pressure of the starters that set the stage for St. John’s. Sharif Fordham and Abe Keita got starts for the Storm and really shined on the defensive end of the court. Keita, who finished with 11 rebounds, six points, five steals and two blocks, and Fordham, who had 12 points, six boards and four steals, established themselves right away, as SJU ran out to a 10-2 lead through the first 4:48 of the first half.
Fordham, a Far Rockaway native, established himself as a defensive specialist last year, but Keita’s emergence has been a pleasant surprise for Jarvis.
“Abe’s really worked very, very hard the past year,” the coach said. “He’s a real defensive presence, a quick strong jumper. Every time you go to the basket, you got to worry whether he’s around or not. He’s done a great job.”
Starting point guard Marcus Hatten’s Alumni Hall debut was not the stellar one he may have wanted, finishing with seven points on 3-of-10 shooting, but the offense ran well with him bringing the ball up court. The Red Storm’s lead reached double digits on a lay-up by Anthony Glover at 11:07, making the score 17-6, but Hatten didn’t score his first point until only 2:50 remained in the first half. His three pointer a minute later made the lead 35-20.
Willie Shaw, a sophomore shooting guard out of JFK who started most of last season, played only 18 minutes and came off the bench for St. John’s, but still managed to lead the team in scoring, hitting for 13 on 4-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc. Another sophomore, Kyle Cuffe, also coming off the bench, added 12 points in 12 minutes of work.
Shaw said he was not bothered by not getting the start.
“Coming off the bench gives me more time to see what’s going on out there off the floor,” he said. “I’m watching and learning at the same time. It really doesn’t matter to me if I start. I’m just going to go in there and play as hard I can play. If I don’t start it will probably make me play harder.”
The lead ballooned to 22 points at 11:32 of the second half, but a determined Stony Brook team would not let up. Led by D.J. Munir, who led the team with 15 points, the Seawolves kept the game respectable down the stretch, but never truly threatened the lead.
It may not have been a blowout, but Jarvis seemed satisfied.
“I thought overall defense was good,” the coach said. “That’s the important thing now. It’s not easy to play against a team you are supposed to beat. But we’ll take it. I’m really glad the season is finally underway.”
The Red Storm will face a tougher test the next time out when they take on Gonzaga Thursday as part of the Great Alaska Shootout. Also participating in the tournament are Alaska-Anchorage, Indiana, Marquette, Oregon State, Tennessee and Texas. St. John’s will be back in Queens Tuesday, Nov. 27 for an exhibition against the New York Panthers.
Notes: Former St. John’s Prep star Larry Jennings missed the game with a fractured bone in his foot. The transfer from St. Joseph’s is expected to rejoin Stony Brook by the end of December….Flushing native and St. John’s Prep alum Trevor Bryant did not see action for the Seawolves in the game.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.