The undefeated Saint John’s University Red Storm put a pretty professional beat down on the UMBC Retrievers 75-53 Monday night at Carnesecca Arena. It wasn’t quite a blowout – SJU went up early, let them back in it after halftime, and put them away midway through the second period – but it’s the sort of game that will be a blowout once they develop a killer instinct. Regular readers are well aware that I’m far from an optimist and especially not about SJU, but still there have been some positives early on. The biggest one is that this team – unlike any SJU team we’ve watched over the past five years – is greater than the sum of its parts. Steve Lavin might have had better talent – who am I kidding, he did – but they always underachieved, that mostly a result of Lavin’s bizarre anti-coaching. Whereas these guys are getting better right before our eyes. The fact is that this team has improved more in the three games since the Saint Thomas debacle than Lavin’s teams did in three years. And the result is better basketball: no more purposeless perimeter passing until someone makes a play; no more indifferent defense designed to produce blocks at the rim; rational substitutions and rotations and time outs. It’s almost as if the coaching staff has watched a basketball game before. Obviously it’s too early to get excited and there’s no question that they’re going to take some vicious beatings, like e.g. on December 13th, but the way I see it everybody takes a beating sometimes.
PLAYERS: Mussini finished with 18 point and 6 assists having compiled in two games a stat line the likes of which I cannot recall from a Caucasian SJU player since the great Paul Berwanger wore the red and white. Ha, just kidding, I just like saying Berwanger. Pretty good start though. In a determined attempt to make those such as myself who thought he could not shoot free throws look like morons FM was 8 for 8 from the line. No static at all … Malik Ellison will be a fine basketball player once he learns that he’s not so much a senior in high school punking underclassmen as he is a college freshman getting punked by seniors. Although long-term he looks like an excellent prospect in the short term he looks like an excellent argument for freshmen ineligibility … Sima is so far averaging 8 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in his college career. To put that in perspective that puts him at this point in his career slightly ahead of David Russell and slightly behind of George Johnson. Hyperbole aside, he’s everything you would have hoped Obekpa might have developed into in a year or two, minus the drama …Only two games into the season and I’ve figured out how to tell the three new upperclassmen apart: Mvoioka has a bunch of tattoos, Johnson wears the dopey headband, and Williams is the other one … Who was it that said that Ron Mvouika looked to be the best of the incoming upperclassmen? Oh yeah, that was me. In a stunning turn of events I might have been right again: 17 points (6 of 7 from the floor and 4-4 from 3) and 4 assists. If his name wasn’t so ridiculously hard to spell he might even become my favorite player … Durand Johnson is starting to look like the player everyone said he was. He pretty much single handedly turned back the aborted UMBC comeback, scoring all 15 of his points in the second half … Williams otoh still looks rusty … Christian Jones had 7 and 7 and so far seems willing to do the sort of lunch bucket work that needs doing … Mullin knows so much about basketball that he evidently is capable of making even Abliveckovich look competent … Elijah Holifield played, but not very well. Also someone called Abdul Dial played, which I never heard of him before, but he has a pretty impressive high school resume (all county, honorable mention all-state) for a walk on
NOTES: I was almost disappointed not to see Steve Lavin in the studio at halftime, because I was looking forward to mocking him. Jim Jackson was there in his stead, which is a bit of a problem, because I don’t hate Jim Jackson. I mean sure, he’s a bit unctuous, but not to the Jon Rothstein level where you want to reach through the TV screen and smash his face in … University Maryland Baltimore County is a university located in Baltimore County in the state of Maryland, which might not seem like a lot but is of no small comfort to a cynic like me in today’s post-modern world. Notable UMBC alumni include the actress Kathleen Turner and pretty much no one else of whom I’ve ever heard. Turner was pretty hot in Body Heat but that was a long time ago – now she weighs like three hundred pounds and if the press reports are true drinks even more than I do. Speaking of heat, and bodies: In 1987 Turner’s then husband night club owner Jay Weiss was indicted when the unfortunately named Happyland nightclub in the Bronx burned to the ground killing 87 persons, this after a hat check girl spurned the advances of a patron who returned later and attempted to rekindle their romance with a gallon of gasoline. Now, that description might have sounded a bit callous, but it was no where near as callous as what Turner said while the bodies were still smoldering, which was that the fire was “unfortunate” and “could have happened at a McDonald’s.” And I guess especially at a McDonald’s that had no fire alarm, no fire extinguishers, no sprinkler system, and where the fire exits were barricaded to prevent patrons from entering without paying the cover charge, as was the case at Happyland … The only other UMBC grad of note is Johnathon Schaech, star of Roadhouse 2, and he’s only notable because (a) Roadhouse is the greatest movie of all time and (b) he was in real life married to Kelly Bundy, which gave me an excuse to post the Rule 5 picture that adorns this post … Continuing with tonight’s movie theme, the UMBC mascot is a retriever called True Grit, although whether so-called after Charles Portis’s only readable novel, the original John Wayne version of the movie – marred by the eccentric casting of Glen Campbell as La Beouf – or the superior Coen Brothers remake of a few years ago – which succeeds despite the fact that Matt Damon is in it, because Matt Damon sucks – it’s impossible to know. UMBC announced a few years ago that True had a sister called I kid you not Trudy Grit, who they run out there for women’s sports, which is – wait for it – probably something to do with Title K-9. Canine, geddit?
Good night and don’t forget to tip your waitress.