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September 7, 2009QUEENS, N.Y. - Four games and four wins in 32 hours across two days added up to a successful preseason tour of Canada for the St. John's men's basketball team.
An exasperating stretch of traveling and playing came down to the weekend's final moments, as the exhausted Red Storm had to battle to its final defensive possession in a 74-73 victory at the University of Ottawa on Sunday night to complete the sweep. The nailbiter over Canada's fifth-rated collegiate program came at the heels of a decisive win over Canada's top college squad from earlier in the day, 71-54, at the Carleton University Ravens' Nest.
"I thought the trip was great. Our guys played really hard and had to fight through some adversity, with some tough situations and tough crowds. We really made plays when we needed to," said head coach Norm Roberts, now in his sixth season on the Red Storm bench.
Waking in Montreal after posting a 90-55 victory over McGill and a 104-62 win over the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) on Saturday, the Red Storm gathered for Sunday Mass and breakfast before boarding the team bus and heading directly to Carleton's arena. The Ravens, who won six of the previous seven Canadian CIS Championships and whose coach Dave Smart has a 91 percent winning percentage over the last 10 seasons, were less than hospitable hosts and took a 34-30 lead into the halftime locker room. Going small to begin the second half, the Red Storm applied heavy defensive pressure and used a 27-6 run to take control. Junior D.J. Kennedy contributed game-highs of 19 points and nine boards, while sharpshooter Dwight Hardy poured in 18 points on 7-of-10 field goals and a 4-of-5 performance from outside the 3-point arc.
Playing on tired legs in the nightcap, the Red Storm managed to hold on for the one-point win at Montpetit Hall, home of the vaunted Ottawa Gee-Gees. Despite a 22-point performance by Ottawa's Warren Ward, who scored the Gee-Gees' final bucket to make it a one-point game, the Red Storm was able to grind out its fourth win of the whirlwind tour. Junior classmates Sean Evans (14 points, eight rebounds) and Paris Horne (14 points, seven rebounds) led the way, while rookie Justin Brownlee tallied 11 points and third-year floor general Malik Boothe scored nine with five assists.
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