Dec. 09, 2015
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QUEENS, N.Y. - St. John's used a stout defensive effort to grind out a 48-44 victory against Niagara in front of a sold out crowd of 5,602 fans at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday. The Red Storm defense held the Purple Eagles to just 25.0 percent (14-of-56) shooting, including a 16.7 percent (3-of-18) mark from distance, and also blocked 12 shots.
Federico Mussini (Reggio Emilia, Italy) scored 11 points to lead St. John's (6-3), which held its opposition below the 60-point mark for the fourth time in four games this season in Queens. Christian Jones (Arlington, Texas) finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Yankuba Sima (Girona, Spain) added six points, six rebounds and three blocks. Kassoum Yakwe (Bamako, Mali) contributed five points, five rebounds and five blocks in 19 minutes off the bench.
Emile Blackman scored a game-high 16 points to lead Niagara (3-7), while Matt Scott posted a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. St. John's improved to 73-27 all-time against Niagara, its most-frequently played non-conference opponent.
The freshmen duo of Mussini and Sima helped St. John's jump out to an early seven-point advantage. Mussini drained a 3 to put the Red Storm on the board before Sima followed with a slam to help St. John's jump out to a 9-2 lead at the 15:03 mark. Coming off a career-high 19-point effort on Sunday, Durand Johnson (Baltimore, Md.) buried a 3-pointer as the Red Storm extended its lead to 14-7.
The Purple Eagles countered with a 7-0 run making it a one point game with 5:13 left in the first half, before Red Storm guard Felix Balamou (Conakry, Guinea) delivered six unanswered points to open the largest lead of the stanza. The 6-foot-4 senior threw down a fastbreak slam to go up nine with 1:44 left in the period. St. John's carried a 27-20 lead into the break.
St. John's led by as many as 12 points in the second half with the help of Yakwe's defensive effort. The freshman forward swatted four of his five shots after intermission. Yakwe's second block of the half led to an open court slam by Jones to put St. John's up 34-22.
Both teams went cold midway through the second half combining to miss 13-straight field goal attempts. However, the Red Storm did not relinquish its lead, and with 5:31 to play Mussini drained a key 3-pointer that gave the team a 43-33 cushion.
Niagara outscored St. John's 9-2 over the next four minutes to get within three at the 1:29 mark, but free-throws from upperclassmen Jones and Ron Mvouika (Paris, France) helped St. John's hold on for its second-straight win.
St. John's is back in action on Sunday hosting Syracuse (7-2) at Madison Square Garden. Tip off for the 90th meeting between the former conference rivals is set for noon with Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery on the call for FS1.