St. John’s is beginning to put two disappointing seasons in the rear-view mirror and can start with five victories for the first time since 2009-10 when it takes on Oregon State in the first round of the Advocare Invitational on Thursday at Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Red Storm have rolled to four double-digit victories, including a 79-56 triumph over Nebraska, and held teams to 34.7 percent shooting.
“Our team, how we play, and how skilled and talented we are, we feel like we can play with anybody,” St. John’s junior forward Marvin Clark II told the New York Post, “but it’s just a matter of if we’re gonna come out and bring it from the jump.” The Red Storm will have to get another strong effort when they meet Oregon State, which should be much improved after a 5-27 season with several key players back. The Beavers sandwiched a 75-66 loss to Wyoming with victories against Southern Utah and Long Beach State to start the season while shooting 50 percent from the field and scoring 84.7 per contest. Sophomore forward Tres Tinkle, the son of coach Wayne Tinkle, and 6-10 junior forward Drew Eubanks have averaged 41 points and almost 15 rebounds through the first three games for Oregon State.
TV: 2 p.m. ET, ESPNU
ABOUT ST. JOHN’S (4-0): Sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds (17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, four assists), sophomore guard Marcus LoVett (15 points, 2.5 steals) and senior guard Bashir Ahmed (13 points) lead a balanced offense. Third-year coach Chris Mullin said recently that junior forward Tariq Owens, who is averaging 4.8 points along with six rebounds and 3.3 blocks, is perhaps his most important player. “He’s the anchor of our defense,” Mullin told the New York Post. “His blocks, they’re great blocks, because he’s in the right place. … I think, to me, he kind of makes everything go, and he’s pretty freakish athletically. He can do everything.”
ABOUT OREGON STATE (2-1): Tinkle is averaging 21.3 points on 23-of-39 shooting and eight rebounds while Eubanks chips in with 19.7 and 6.7, respectively, draining 18-of-26 from the field. Junior guard Stephen Thompson Jr. has scored 13.7 per game in the first three, but is shooting 36.8 percent from the field overall - making just 1-of-15 from 3-point range. “We’ve just got to get him to relax,” coach Tinkle told the Corvallis Gazette-Times of Thompson, who averaged 16.3 points in 2016-17. “We know he’s a great shooter. I think he’s really putting a lot of pressure on himself. … It’s just another piece to our deal that obviously puts us at a different level.”
1. St. John’s sophomore G Justin Simon, a transfer from Arizona, is averaging 10.3 points and a team-high 9.5 rebounds.
2. Oregon State sophomore G Jaquori McLaughlin is averaging just four points in the first three games after finishing at 10.5 last season.
3. The teams have split two meetings with the Red Storm winning the last 66-63 in the 2001 Great Alaska Shootout.
PREDICTION: St. John’s 76, Oregon State 62