In the second exhibition game in three days against highly successful men’s basketball programs, Westmont (1-0) fell to the Red Storm of St. John’s (N.Y.) on Saturday by a score of 100-42 at Carnesecca Arena in Queens.
On Thursday, Westmont played at the basketball mecca of Pauley Pavilion, losing to the Bruins of UCLA by a score of 95-59. Though the scores were lopsided in both games, the experience of playing against some of the best that college basketball has to offer will long be remembered by players, coaches and fans.
“We played at two of the most storied programs in the history of college basketball,” said Westmont Head Coach John Moore. “Here at St. John’s, Joe Lapchick was one of the greatest coaches of all time. Lou Carnesecca, whom the arena is named after, is another one of their great coaches. Chris Mullin played here. He is one of the greatest NBA players and a member of the greatest Olympic team we ever put together.
“UCLA has 11 national championship banners and I can name the starting five for nearly every one of those teams because of my respect for John Wooden,” continued the coach. “I almost want to spread these two games out over a two or three year period to fully appreciate them. When they come like this you have to take some time to drink it in fully.”
As for Saturday’s game, St. John’s came ready to play and scored 16 points before the Warriors could get on the board.
“It is hard not to be a little shell shock, surprised, disappointed – and it is understandable that our guys would be,” said Moore of St. John’s start. “You reach high to experience what it is like to play against a high level opponent. These guys were very high level – they and UCLA. We couldn’t have picked two tougher teams. I think they will both be in the top-25 of NCAA Division I teams this year. They are probably as good as any two teams Westmont has ever played. I think my brother-in-law (St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin) has a lot to look forward to. He had them ready and he had them executing very well.”
Blake Bender (13 points) finally got the Warriors on the scoreboard a little more than four minutes into the contest. But the 16-2 difference on the scoreboard was a margin the Warriors would not make up. St. John’s continued to build its lead, taking a 59-20 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
“I think you wouldn’t want them to let up,” said Moore. “You want them to play as hard as they can for the whole game. They zoned us the whole game because that is what they are going to be doing (this season). They will be playing a lot of zone. It is also a level or respect for us. When we run man offense it is hard to guard. They played zone because it is what they are going to do but it is also a level of respect to our guys and the kind of execution that they have offensively.
“What you bring away (from this game) is how important it is to compete right out of the gates,” said Moore. “I thought we looked a little shell shocked and fatigued and we didn’t compete at the level I had expected to. A lot of that has to do with St. John’s. They did a really nice job of taking away everything that we were trying to do. And we didn’t shoot well. When you are playing against the zone you have to make threes. We did not make threes and we turned it over way too much.”
The Warriors made just four of 28 attempts from beyond the arc (14.3%). By contrast, Westmont made 60% of its shots from two-point range, but made only 20 attempts from that distance.
“I thought we competed for the first ten minutes of the second half and Niko (Brooks) had a lot to do with that,” said Moore.
In fact, the Warriors played the Red Storm even during the first half of the second period, matching St. John’s 18 points. Bender contributed seven during that stretch. But St. John’s would not be contained and finished the half outscoring the Warriors 23-4.
Niko Brooks tallied eight points on three-of-six shooting while Dan Rasp added six points and pulled down four boards. Matt Hornbuckle contributed another five points and Evan Haines led the Warriors with six rebounds.
The Red Storm tallied five players in double-figures led by forward Justin Brownlee with 18 and guard Dwight Hardy with 15.
While in New York, the Warriors had an opportunity to see the sights with a familiar tour guide.
“We met up with Dave Newton, a member of our faculty at Westmont, who was out here doing a seminar for King’s College,” said Moore. “He gave us a tour of New York City. We saw Time Square, we walked down Broadway and we had a chance to see Central Park and Rockefeller Center. We also saw the Empire State Building from afar.”
The Warriors will fly home on Sunday for a week of classes before heading to the State of Washington next weekend. On Friday, Westmont will take on Northwest in Kirkland before playing Evergreen State in Olympia on Saturday.