|Joel Soriano in action on Tuesday night. @RedStormBball.|
The St. John's Red Storm opened the season in style, as they rolled to a 90-74 win over Stony Brook on Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena.
This was the debut for Rick Pitino as St. John's Head Coach, and this highly-anticipated season and it was certainly worth the wait for the 5,602 in attendance.
Joel Soriano led the way with 22 points on 9-12 from the field, including 2-2 on three-pointers, with 11 rebounds and two assists. Daniss Jenkins had 17 points (7-13 FG, 3-6 on threes), eight assists, and seven rebounds. Chris Ledlum had 16 points (7-15 FG, 2-3 threes), 14 rebounds, and four assists. Jordan Dingle had 13 points (5-11 FG, 1-5 threes), but did not record a rebound or assist.
St. John's raced out to a 41-30 lead at halftime, as they shot an even 50 percent from the field (17-34) and 50% from behind the arc (5-10). The Red Storm shot 51.5 percent (34-66) for the game, and they had 21 assists and 43 rebounds (18 on the offensive end) as a team.
Pitino Postgame: Opening statement: "Obviously for 90 percent of the game, I was extremely pleased. We had three things we wanted to accomplish because this team beat Fairfield by 40, Manhattan by 25 and the major weapon was the 3-point line. We wanted to stop the three, outrebound them and not turn the ball over. Fifteen [turnovers] was a lot, but Daniss [Jenkins] had six by himself because he had to do a little bit too much. I'm extremely pleased with our first-half defense. Obviously, I'm very happy for Joel [Soriano] and Chris Ledlum, both guys played great. Unfortunately, we're coaching on the fly. We are trying to teach them habits. They are learning when they are going down the court and that's not a good thing. Over time, they'll have the habits and it will be a lot easier on them when they don't have the think and play as much."
On team's scouting: "I thought that [assistant coach] Bob Walsh, who was our scouter, did a fabulous job teaching them the principles of [Stony Brook's] offense. I don't think I lost a game at Iona when Bob scouted. He has a great way of teaching the players what they do and where their shots are going to occur. Kudos to Bob, he did a great job scouting them."
On Joel Soriano: "When you lost 30 pounds, 35 pounds and you go from 14 and change to nine percent body fat, you want to get the rewards for putting in that type of work and he certainly did tonight. 9-for-12, 2-for-2 from three, 2-for-2 from the line, 11 rebounds, two assists and zero turnovers. Quite the special night. He's thin, he's happy and I would like to get him down to eight percent so he can just fade away for life."
On key points of tonight's game: "First-half defense and the fact that we took away the three. Look I am a big believer, as most of you know, in the three-point shot, but I have never gotten credit for the other aspect of it. I have gotten too much credit for being one of the original guys, but it's only good if you stop it. If you make nine and they make eight, it's not a weapon. Tonight, they made four and we made 11. It's a weapon. Only when you stop it, it is a weapon. I thought we were very happy with the first-half defense with them shooting 36 percent and 1-for-11 from three."
On what his realistic expectations were for the team tonight: "We thought from the film it was going to be a war today because they have a lot of older players, they shoot it well, they have a lot of good one-on-one players and they have great size. We just wanted to come away with a victory."
On the team chemistry shown in tonight's game: "I think they're learning each other, they're learning me, I'm learning them. We have a lot of fun together. Somebody said I was tough to play for and without question I was, but I'm very easy to play for now. I want to be more passionate than I have ever been at my age, I also want to have more fun than I have ever had and I am having a blast with these guys. We laugh a lot in practice, we play hard but we laugh a lot. I think sometimes in my early years laughter wasn't something Antoine Walker would describe, or Jeff Sheppard, or Mark Pope, or Russ Smith, or Peyton Siva. We laughed and had fun with the wins but we laugh a lot now and I think with today's young people, laughter is a very important medicine to have on a basketball team and these guys have a great time in practice."
On the emotions after tonight: "You know it's funny when I was walking out, two things came to my mind immediately. One was Lou [Carnesecca]...I don't know if he was there or not, but I was thinking of Lou because he's the reason that this place is special and it's such an honor to take over for him. The second thing was Michigan. I asked Steve [Masiello] how Michigan did and he said blew [UNC Asheville] out. We know how every game is so important. We think we will be a pretty good team in January, but we have to get to that point without taking too many bumps."