It wasn’t the way the St. John’s basketball team wanted to start the season, but given the size advantage the opposition held, at times there wasn’t a lot the Johnnies could really do about it.
St. Cloud State blocked at least nine shots – and likely more – en route to downing St. John’s 67-48 in the season opener for both neighboring schools before a crowd of 2,889 at Sexton Arena.
“It was tough because we’re not used to going against that kind of size in practice,” said Chris Neumann, who led the Johnnies with 10 points and six rebounds. “It’s a different feel when you have guys who are 6-8 like that. It makes it tough to score and tough on the defensive end. The good part is we probably won’t see size like that the rest of the year. The bad part is we didn’t handle it very well.”
St. John’s took a 15-13 lead with under eight minutes to go in the first half and tied the score at 18 a bit later, but after that, it was all Huskies.
Theo Rothstein finished with 16 points. Shaun Jensen added 13. And 6-11 center Chris Larson had 10 points.
The Johnnies actually outrebounded the Huskies 47-37 – including 20-11 on offensive boards. But it did no good on a night when St. John’s finished just 18-for-60 (30 percent) from the field and 3-for-17 from behind the 3-point line.
“It says they had nine blocks, but I swear they had more,” Johnnies coach Jim Smith said. “We’d go in for a good shot. Then all of a suddent, it was just wham. We’d get an offensive rebound and we couldn’t put the shot back. The ball would get blocked or deflected out of bounds.”
St. Cloud State didn’t shoot the ball much better – finishing just 23-for-59 (39 percent) from the field. But the Huskies closed the first half on a 17-4 run, taking advantage of 13 turnovers by St. John’s in the first half.
The Johnnies finished with 19 in all. St. Cloud State had 12.
“We’d get some momentum going and turnovers would kill us,” Neumann said. “Those are things we have to fix moving forward.”
St. John’s next travels to Wisconsin to take on perennial Division III power Wisconsin-Stevens Point at 8 p.m. next Tuesday.