Mike Anderson’s tweaks pay off in St. John’s rebound win over Fordham

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Mike Anderson had a simple message for his players ahead of Sunday night’s meeting with Fordham.

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“You have to earn it,” he told them. “The minutes are not given.”

St John’s coach then backed up those words by rewarding two of his best practice players, Dylan Ade-Wusu and Esahia Nyewe. Two new starters in turn made him smart, contributing to a much-needed better performance after an ugly 20-point loss to eighth-placed Kansas on Friday.


“I talk about blue collars, and I’ve put some blue-collar guys in the lineup,” Anderson said. “I thought we came out with energy. I thought we had a purpose. We stayed true to the script. That’s all we talked about.”

Sunday evening’s 83-69 win over Fordham has never been immaculate. Turnover issues (15 of them) remained, and the Johnnies (6-2) hung around an overwhelmed opponent. But there were more continuous sections of better play, a solid start and no last-minute worries over the prospect of getting really upset. The 3-point defense was improved, as Fordham (6-4) was placed 10 for 31 from the distance and shot just 37 percent from the field. This was progress for the St John’s team which has struggled to play consistently.

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“Today our main focus was only on defence. We came out with a defensive mindset, and that’s exactly what happened,” said posh Alexander, who scored a career-high 23 points, added five assists and was the best player on the floor.

Mike Anderson used only seven players in the second half.

Addae-Wusu built on his strong game against Kansas with the first double-double of his career: 11 points, 11 assists, four steals and a plus-25 rating in 33 minutes. He is finding his form after the September ankle surgery.

Nyiwe, however, had the biggest surprise. The 6ft-10 junior college transfer went smoothly till Sunday. But he had a key role on both ends of the floor in this game, scoring seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks. His presence as a rim-protector and a ball-mover who could finish around the basket provided a dimension that was lacking for St.

“He has a high basketball IQ. He knows when to switch, he knows when to defend,” said Anderson. “He has great instincts, and I thought we saw it on display . He’s never in a hurry.”

Added Nyiwe: “I don’t take this opportunity lightly.”

Chuba Ohms led Fordham with 20 points and Darius Quisenberry had 16, although he did not score after halftime.

The 14-point victory margin was the Red Storm’s biggest margin since the second game of the season. It marked its best start since that competition with a 21-point victory over St Peters. It also included short of the bench, as Anderson used just seven players in the second half – Julian Champagne (16 points, eight rebounds) and Alexander logged 38 minutes – after playing 11 in the opening verse. It is not necessarily a blueprint St. John will follow. Anderson is a supporter of depth, and feels he has it with this team.

“We are still a work in progress,” Anderson said. “I want to get it to where we can put 40 minutes together. … We still have some things we have to overcome.”


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