St. John's head coach Chris Mullin shouts to his team in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against Chaminade in the Maui Invitational Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer
December 06, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) Chris Mullin had his own throwback Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

The former St. John's All-America, who went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, was back in the building he starred in as both a collegian and a pro.

''I love this place, always have, always will,'' Mullin said after St. John's got him a victory in his first game as a coach at The Garden, 63-56 over St. Francis Brooklyn in the MSG Holiday Festival.

Mullin's first game in The Garden as a player was in the Holiday Festival in 1981. He was voted Most Valuable Player of that tournament.

''It was great having coach Carnesecca behind the bench,'' he said of his Hall of Fame coach at St. John's. ''We got the win and it was a great experience for all our young guys. Overall, it was a good day.''

Durand Johnson scored 19 points and Yankuba Sima had 17 for the Red Storm, who hung on for the victory.

Johnson scored six of St. John's final eight points, including four in the last 30 seconds, to hold off the Terriers, who had closed within 57-55 with 1:03 to play on a layup by Yunus Hopkinson.

Johnson hit a baseline jumper as the shot clock expired to put the Red Storm up 59-55 with 30 seconds to go, and after Hopkinson made one of two free throws, he converted both ends of a 1-and-1 for a six-point lead.

Sima had 10 rebounds and Christian Jones added nine for the Red Storm (5-3), who finished with a 45-33 advantage on the boards.

Sima, who has had his right thumb heavily taped all season, injured his pinkie on the same hand late in the first half but missed little time, returning with that finger and the one next to it taped together.

''He's a tough kid. A quiet kid but a tough kid,'' Mullin said.

Hopkinson and Antonio Jenifer both had 10 points to lead St. Francis (3-5), who had won two straight.

The Terriers led 23-14 when St. John's scored the next 19 points. Hopkinson snapped the drought with a basket with a second left in the half to make it 33-25. Johnson had 10 points in the run, including the Red Storm's only two 3-pointers of the half.

St. Francis missed six shots and committed five turnovers during the scoreless streak.

''I thought we took some bad shots during their big run,'' said Terriers coach Glenn Braica, a former assistant at St. John's. ''Their length bothered us, which is understandable. But our guys gave good effort throughout and this will be a good experience for us.''

The Terriers closed within 44-40 only to see the Red Storm go on a 9-0 run. They took advantage of more turnovers by St. John's to pull within 57-55.

The Red Storm finished with 18 turnovers that St. Francis converted into 11 points.

''I told the guys we'll be a lot better off when we start passing the ball to our guys,'' Mullin said. ''It's not always the pressure that's causing the turnovers. A lot of them are unforced.''


St. Francis: The Terriers trail the all-time series 65-13 and have lost 33 of the last 34 and seven straight. ... St. Francis had 10 steals.

St. John's: The Red Storm have won the Holiday Festival 16 times in 49 appearances and have an overall record of 73-38. ... St. John's was missing freshman guard Malik Ellison (foot) and junior college transfer forward Derian Williams (shoulder). Neither has played in the last five games. ... St. John's became the eighth school to win 1,800 games at the Division I level. ... The Red Storm finished with 12 blocks, five by Sima.


St. Francis hosts NJIT on Thursday.

St. John's hosts Niagara on Wednesday.

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