NEW YORK — Chris Mullin opened his coaching career at St. John’s with an embarrassing 90-58 exhibition loss to Division II St. Thomas Aquinas on Wednesday night.
Justin Reyes had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Spartans, and Chaz Walter added 18 points.
Federico Mussini led St. John’s with 16 points. The Red Storm shot 36.7 percent and had 27 turnovers.
“You have to give the other team a lot of credit,” Mullin said. “They played hard, they played together and aggressive. This will be a tremendous teaching tool. A lot of our guys have not played in a college basketball game, and we tried to emulate that in practice and the scrimmage, but it’s different. We have to learn from this.”
Mullin is in his first season as a coach. A Hall of Famer, he starred for St. John’s and the Golden State Warriors and was part of the original Dream Team.
“I used what Coach (Lou) Carnesecca told our team when we were down against Georgetown 41-9 at half: ‘It’s embarrassing, but it’s also something you have to claim. It’s something we did together. There’s no time for pointing fingers,'” Mullin said. “I take the responsibility for that. I thought they were more prepared than we were, but we’ll get back to the details.”
St. Thomas Aquinas shot 61.8 percent in the first half and led 50-34 at the break. The Spartans finished at 48 percent and had only 14 turnovers.
“I thought we had a shot to play with them, considering we have a lot of experienced guys coming back,” coach Tobin Anderson said. “We played them last year for most of the first half, but to play like we did, to shoot like we did was a credit to our guys. It’s hard because in these exhibitions we’re so fired up, and perhaps St. John’s is probably not as excited about playing us.”
St. John’s struggled with St. Thomas Aquinas’ full-court press.
“That’s how we play. That’s our system,” Anderson said. “We press like that for 40 minutes, so part of that’s why we are in really good shape. … We have a lot interchangeable parts, lots of different guys playing different positions. I thought the pressure was great.”
St. John’s will face Sonoma State on Saturday in another exhibition game, then open the regular season Nov. 13 against Wagner.