When St. John’s took the court Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, they were missing the lone holdover from last year’s NCAA tournament team.
Malik Stith, the 5’11″ junior guard known affectionately as ‘Pops’, chose to leave the team for personal reasons and will stay on as a student-manager. Without his presence on the bench, the Red Storm were down to six in rotation players (not including Jamal White), but there was no room for excuses.
“No, that would be too easy.” said assistant coach Mike Dunlap referring to Stith, “Defensively and on the boards, it’s an effort thing. For whatever reason, we were flat. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You have to practice hard. It’s my responsibility to orchestrate that in the gym.”
While D’Angelo Harrison contributed 15 points, other members of the team tried to fill the void left by Harkless’ less than stellar performance. Garrett, Pointer, and Greene all contributed quality minutes, while Jamal White dropped 6 points of his own as time wound down.
“We missed more shots that we usually make.” said Harrison, “The ball didn’t bounce our way, but we can’t let that affect us defensively.”
Looking ahead, the Johnnies go on the road to play #11 Georgetown and Seton Hall. Cincinnati may have been the turning point for serious hopes of postseason play, but at this point it’s all about experience – and in that department – this young team has the thought process of a group of juniors.