By Laura Amato
St. John’s men’s basketball coach Chris Mullin had a simple answer to what went wrong Tuesday night—everything.
The Red Storm lost 79-72 to Delaware State, a squad that came into the game without a win against a Division I opponent.
That loss was the latest in a string of disappointing games for St. John’s, after they went 0-for-3 at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend.
“The rhythm of the game, from our standpoint, was dominated by them,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “Give them credit. They had confidence.”
The Hornets got under St. John’s (2-5) skin from the get-go, opening up in a 2-3 zone that the Red Storm struggled to break. The defensive effort left St. John’s searching for answers, taking 19 shots from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes of play.
The three-point attack didn’t hit, however, as the Red Storm shot just 31.6 percent from three-point territory in the first half.
“We didn’t do a good job moving the ball around,” said Bashir Ahmed, who finished with a team-high 19 points. “We thought we had open looks, but some of the shots we took weren’t good shots.”
The problems, however, were bigger than just St. John’s shot selection. Delaware State (2-5) was bursting with confidence heading into the break, holding on to a seven-point lead and shooting 64 percent from the floor. That kind of success made it difficult for the Red Storm to seize back any momentum and St. John’s still struggled after halftime.
“Even when we did have a few decent possessions on defense, we didn’t rebound,” Mullin said. “They dominated because of their efficiency on offense.”
St. John’s did succeed on the glass—out-rebounding Delaware State 36-31, including 18-7 on the offensive side—but the Red Storm simply couldn’t put the ball in the hoop and as the team’s frustrations mounted, the energy on both sides of the court dwindled.
“It’s hard,” said guard Federico Mussini, who finished with 11 points. “This really hurts us. We really talked about it, we made sure we were going to come out tough and play hard, but we didn’t.”
The Red Storm pulled within six with just over three minutes left, but couldn’t mount the final comeback. The Hornets answered with a seven-point run to go up by 13 with 49 seconds left.
“I thought we lost trust in each other a bit, shrinking the floor, not helping the helper,” Mullin said. “Those are things we’re usually good at and we work on it every day.”
By the final whistle, the biggest issue for St. John’s wasn’t the score – it was the effort. The Red Storm battled a handful of top teams at Atlantis and took on Minnesota last month as well, but this time, the team felt it looked beyond its opponent, certain of a victory before the ball was even tipped.
And it cost the Red Storm.
“I think that was our problem,” Mussini said. “When we play big teams, everybody is high and ready from the beginning. So we’ve just got to respect everybody.”