Freshman Italian transplant Federico Mussini scored a game-high 18 points and handed out six assists to help St. John’s defeat UMBC, 75-53, on Monday at Carnesecca Arena.
Meanwhile, Ron Mvouika of France added 16 points and freshman center Yankuba Sima of Spain contributed eight points, nine rebounds and swatted four shots in 19 minutes of action.
Durand Johnson had 15 points in the Red Storm’s homeland contest of the 32nd annual Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
St. John’s (2-0) finished the night with a 51.9 (27-of-52) field goal shooting percentage after heating up in the second half by going 15-of-26 from the floor. Mussini knocked down all eight free-throw attempts to anchor an 82.4 percent (14-of-17) effort at the line.
Mvouika was perfect from downtown, sinking four 3-pointers and shooting 6-for-7 from the floor. Johnson scored all of his points in the second half, hitting 7-of-10 field goal attempts in the stanza.
“Durand and Ron were big time tonight,” said head coach Chris Mullin. “They played like the leaders that we need them to be. We don’t have a deep bench right now so we need contributions from everybody. Durand struggled in the first half, but that just shows you his experience.”
“In the first half I had a rocky start, but I came out in the second half and I was aggressive,” said Johnson. “Ron Mvouika came to me [at halftime] and said, ‘let the first half go and play your game right now.’”
The Retrievers were held to a 26.9 percent (18-of-67) shooting mark and 27.6 percent (8-of-29) from distance.
“Our defense is going to dictate our offense,” said Mvouika “We’re still learning how to play with each other. On the defensive side, I think we did a great job tonight. Right now we’re focused on one play at a time.”
A nine-point Red Storm lead at the break was cut to two, 33-31, less than three minutes into the second half as the Retrievers made four of their first five shots. Johnson then caught fire, scoring eight-straight points for the Red Storm as the home squad pushed the lead back to seven, 41-34, at the 13:42 mark.
St. John’s wraps up a three-game home stretch on Thursday against Rutgers for the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games. Tim Brando and Bill Raftery are on the call for FS1’s national broadcast at 7 p.m.
Women start 1-1
In the final game of the team’s season-opening West Coast swing, the St. John’s Red Storm picked up its first win of the year, handling UC Irvine, 85-63.
Senior guard Danaejah Grant led the way for the Red Storm (1-1), tallying 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field.
Grant knocked down both of her attempts from three-point range and earned nine trips to the charity stripe, converting on six.
“This was a great effort in a game that was an important bounce back from Friday night,” said head coach Joe Tartamella. “I was pleased with our improvements in most areas of the game and it was a great performance by our team..”
The Red Storm’s 85 points were the most for the team since hanging up 85 against Providence on Feb. 8, 2014.
Junior Jade Walker and freshman Akina Wellere also recorded double figure scoring numbers for the Red Storm.
The Red Storm looks to continue the momentum in a contest against Rutgers on Thursday at 7 p.m. in New Jersey.