The opening stanza of the Mike Anderson era had provided little but thrills.
Three low-major opponents came to Queens and left with double-digit losses, unable to match the talent or effort of a new-look St. John’s squad, insistent on outperforming its low projections. Then came Vermont — the reigning America East champion, expected to return to the NCAA Tournament — which escaped the borough with a 70-68 win on Saturday.
The season’s first true test ended with shock, with the Red Storm’s late double-digit comeback only increasing the pain inflicted via Anthony Lamb’s game-winning jumper with two seconds remaining. The next challenge comes in the response, entering Wednesday’s game against Columbia at Carnesecca Arena (7 p.m., FS1).
“Take the loss, look at it and move on. You learn from it and move on,” senior Mustapha Heron said. “You can’t dwell on anything. A win or a loss. Another day’s coming. We’re past that. … How open are you to learning from your mistakes and just getting better?”
In opening the season with back-to-back 30-point wins, Heron scored 55 points — the most by a St. John’s player in the team’s first two games in 29 years — while shooting 17 of 28 from the field, including 10 of 13 on 3-pointers.
Since then, St. John’s most explosive scorer has struggled to find his shot.
In the Red Storm’s up-and-down performance against New Hampshire, Heron hit 2 of 12 from the field and tied a career-low with five points. In the loss to Vermont, the preseason All-Big East Second Team selection made just 3 of 11 shots.
“I was getting the same shots I was getting before,” Heron said. “I just gotta knock them down.”
This weekend, St. John’s (3-1) hits the road for the first time in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, where the Red Storm will play Arizona State, and either No. 7 Virginia/UMass.
First come the Lions (1-3), who nearly won at Wake Forest last week.
“I always say, each game is going to be a test for this basketball team,” Anderson said.