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November 24, 2008

St. John's cruises past EMU in NIT

QUEENS, N.Y. - If Eastern Michigan was looking for any comfort in the Queens, N.Y., Consolation Round of the 2008 Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off, it would receive none on Monday from St. John's.

The Red Storm raced out to a 19-7 lead to open the game, never trailing after answering EMU's opening basket, and used the solid start to complete a 73-61 victory at the newly-renovated Carnesecca Arena.

For the third time this season and second instance in as many games, the Red Storm was led by sophomore swingman D.J. Kennedy, who netted 16 points, aided by a 7-of-8 performance from the free throw line, to go along with six rebounds. Starting his second consecutive game was Paris Horne, who appears to be settling into his role and contributed 10 points, with nine coming in the decisive first half. The sophomore duo has combined for 58 points and 28 rebounds in the last two games, making up for the absence of injured teammate Anthony Mason Jr.

"It is good to get out there and play as many games as possible. It's good to get out there and see some different lineups, especially for our situation with Mason being hurt, and it has kind of changed the roles of our team a little bit," said head coach Norm Roberts. "You want the guys to try to get some confidence and play well. I thought our guys did a good job at making their own energy tonight."

Sophomore big man Justin Burrell put forth another steady effort in the middle, chipping in with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and wowing the crowd with a monster one-handed second-half slam. Second-year floor general Malik Boothe totaled 11 points and dealt six assists, while freshman guard Quincy Roberts added a career-high six points and a career-best seven rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

Sophomore forward Sean Evans joined Roberts in grabbing a game-high seven boards (four offensive) as St. John's used a heavy rebounding advantage in the game, collecting 50 to the Eagles' 28. After being outrebounded 42-28 at Boston College on Nov. 18, the Red Storm has outboarded Howard (Nov. 22) and EMU by a combined 92-60, for a +32 rebounding edge across the last two contests.

"Our game plan was to dominate on the boards, to push the ball and play more in transition," said Burrell. "We felt that Eastern Michigan didn't match up with our athleticism, our transitions as well as our play on the low post."

St. John's was 28-of-62 from the field (.452) and scored 70 or more points for the fifth time this season. Meanwhile, the Red Storm defense was stalwart again, clamping down to allow EMU 61 points on 22-of-58 shooting (.379). The Red Storm outscored the Eagles' 38-20 in the paint, and 14-0 in fast break points.

The NIT Season Tip-Off Consolation Rounds continue on Tuesday on campus at the Carnesecca Arena. Following the women's basketball contest vs. Army at 3:30 p.m., Cornell and Eastern Michigan square off at 5:45 p.m., with the Red Storm men's team taking on Loyola (Ill.) in the nightcap at 8 p.m.

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