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Shaq-tastic Burrell breaks backboard in St. John’s win

Justin Burrell is a student of Shaq when it comes to dunking.

“I try to mimic him,” he said.

The St. John’s forward certainly did that last night when he took a pass from Paris Horne along the baseline and slammed it home with two hands. As he hung on the rim he broke the backboard’s support arm beyond repair with 16:57 left in St. John’s 82-54 win over NJIT at Carnesecca Arena on Monday night. Burrell said it was the fourth busted backboard of his career, including a cracked rim and two completely taken down in the park.

The Phoenix Suns’ Shaquille O’Neal has also broken many backboards in his career. So how does Burrell think the Big Aristotle would rate his slam?

“That was terrible,” the 6-foot-8, 240 pound sophomore said. “That was terrible. I don’t know how it broke.”

The St. John’s event staff rushed out a basket that looked like it had been used when legendary coach Lou Carnesecca was patrolling the sidelines. Both teams stayed at their benches as cheerleaders and fans danced on the court to pass the time. It took the rag-tag crew of around a dozen people 35 minutes to do its best Extreme Makeover Home Edition job and get the replacement basket up.

“I wanted to break that one,” Burrell said.

He never got a chance. But the new basket, if you want to call it that, did hold up on dunks by Quincy Roberts and Dele Coker for St. John’s (7-1). Burrell did score nine of his 14 points in the second half. Paris Horne scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting for the game and Malik Boothe had 11.

“I was just on tonight,” Horne said. “I’m comfortable now in the starting role.”

The Red Storm had to shoot without a working shot clock for the rest of the second half because the one on the replacement basket didn’t work. St. John’s agreed to having the players yell the shot-clock number to their teammates from the bench and shot the ball well for the rest of the half.

“We are probably going to keep it up,” St. John’s coach Norm Roberts said.

The loss extends NJIT’s losing streak to 41 games, dating back to Feb. 2007. The Red Storm student’s made sure to remind the Highlanders (0-8) of their futility by hanging a hand-written banner over the stands for every defeat. The Highlanders, who became a Division I program in 2006-07, shot just 38.2 percent from the field for the game to SJU’s 51.8.

“We were aware of [their streak],” Burrell said. “If we weren’t, you [saw] it as soon as you came into the arena.”

Justin Garris scored 12 points for NJIT. Gary Garris and Jheryl Wilson each had 11.

St. John’s went on a 7-0 run capped by a no-look pass from Boothe to a cutting Burrell for a two-handed slam over an NJIT defender to increase the lead to 38-17 lead with 2:11 left in the first half. The Red Storm, who got a strong effort from their bench, led by as many as 30 with 5:07 left. Burrell’s basket-breaking dunk just prolonged the inevitable.

“It wasn’t that hard,” he said. “I don’t know how it broke. One of our walk-ons said he grabbed the rim during our warm up. So I think he loosened it for me.”

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