Sophomore forward Walter Berry scored 24 points, Bill Wennington had 23 and Chris Mullin got 21 as St. John's opened NCAA tournament play with an 83-59 first-round victory over Southern University in the West Regional at Salt Lake City Thursday.
Berry also had a game-high 13 rebounds, while Wennington had eight. Mullin led all players with six assists.
Coach Lou Carnesecca praised the Redmen's defense, which he said "was the best we've played in quite a while. We were a little tentative out there at first, a little tight, but now that the first game is under our belts, we'll be OK."
St. John's (28-3) had a height advantage over the Jaguars (19-11), and the 7-foot Wennington took advantage of it to score seven of his team's first 10 points en route to an early lead.
"The difference was Wennington and Berry. They can hurt you in so many ways," Southern Coach Bob Hopkins said.
In other first-round games at Salt Lake City Thursday, Arkansas defeated Iowa, Kentucky beat Washington and Nevada Las Vegas downed San Diego State.