Mustapha Heron scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the first half and Marcellus Earlington scored a career-high 17 points as host St. John’s romped to a 109-79 victory over Mercer in head coach Mike Anderson’s debut on Wednesday night.
It was 21st career outing of 20 or more points for Heron, who was 7 of 13 from the field, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc.
LJ Figueroa finished with 18 points and Josh Roberts added nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks for the Red Storm, who finished with 11 steals and forced 24 turnovers. Nick Rutherford chipped in with 14 points and eight assists as St. John finished with a 40-4 edge in fast break points while shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Ethan Stair finished with a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Luke Hamilton and Djordje Dimitrijevic each added 10 points for Mercer in the head coaching debut of longtime Purdue assistant Greg Gary.
St. John’s Anderson took over in April for Chris Mullins, who stepped down for personal reasons, just a month after being dismissed at Arkansas and brought his pressing, up-tempo “40 minutes of hell” style of offense with him.
St. John’s used an early 14-0 run highlighted by a dunk and 3-pointer by Heron to jump out to a 39-15 lead in the first 11 1/2 minutes and led by as many as 30 points (53-23) after an Earlington layup en route to a 59-38 halftime lead. The Red Storm held a 25-2 edge in fast break points and converted 15 turnovers by the Bears into a 24-3 advantage in points off turnovers at the break.
Mercer, picked to finish eighth in the Southern Conference preseason poll, used a 7-2 run capped by a 3-pointer by Stair to cut the Red Storm lead to 61-45 with 17:26 remaining. But Figueroa and Earlington sank 3-pointers as St. John’s answered with a 18-5 run to push the lead up to 79-50 with 11:34 to go, and the Bears never got closer than 24 points the rest of the way.
—Field Level Media