Ambiance: Dave Hollister, Take Care of Home (video link, pops up in new window)
St. John’s returns to Carnesecca Arena to earn their second win in the Big East conference against the turmoil-laden DePaul Blue Demons. The Blue Demons have been disappointing, losing 23 straight Big East regular season games (with a win on the conference tournament in between) and fired their coach. Will St. John’s prove that they’re a cut above the conference doormat? Or will they play uninspired basketball and give DePaul their first conference win?
The Red Storm finished their first Big East game in Madison Square Garden with a bizarre but thrilling win. The fans were eager to boo Lance, the place actually had a little electricity and noise, and the team responded in the end. For the fans, it was a good win. But the team has to be concerned that they played good defense, didn’t turn the ball over, and yet still didn’t get much scoring from anyone outside of reserve guard Dwight Hardy and were dominated on the glass.
DePaul, meanwhile, played Providence and saw more of the same result – a resounding beating at the hands of a conference opponent. Playing at home, DePaul actually enjoyed a lead for about 7 minutes in the first half. And then their deadly combination of token defense and limited offensive options caught up with them for a 79-62 loss in interim coach Tracy Webster’s first game. The new coach – known throughout the midwest as an ace recruiter, but new to the program – is hoping to win a few games and be considered for a permanent post at DePaul, but wins will be hard to come by with the weak personnel, further decimated by the loss of Mac Koshwal (out 2-4 weeks).
Tip Off: 2:00 PM, Sunday, January 16
Location: Carnesecca Arena
Radio: Bloomberg 1130/ WSJU
DePaul (7-9, 0-4)
11 PG Jeremiah Kelly SO 6’1 170: 6.2 ppg* 3.4 rpg* 2.8 apg* 1.7 spg
30 G Will Walker SR 6’0 190: 15.4 ppg* 3.1 rpg* 2.8 apg* 1.6 spg
1 G-F Mike Stovall JR 6’5 200: 4.7 ppg* 2.4 rpg* 1.1 spg
3 F Devin Hill SO 6’9 200: 6.5 ppg* 3.7 rpg* .8 bpg* 40.7% FT
33 F-C Krys Faber SO 6’11 260: 1.6 ppg* 1.9 rpg* 45% FG* 50% FT
25 G-F Eric Wallace SO 6’6 215: 23.4 mpg* 7.3 ppg* 5.4 rpg* 1 spg* 1.2 bpg* 31.6% FT
22 F Tony Freeland FR 6’6 200: 8.4 mpg* 2 ppg* 1.5 rpg
10 F Mario Stula JR 6’7 210: 14.5 mpg* 3.3 ppg* 1.5 rpg* 34.5% 3PT
34 G Ryan Siggins FR 6’5 210: 14 mpg* 3.9 ppg* 1.2 rpg* 38.5% 3PT
There are strong reasons why DePaul has a chance to go winless once again in the Big East. They are missing their best player, center Mac Koshwal, and their backup point guard. They didn’t rebound or defend well with Koshwal, and really struggle to score. Without him, the post duties are held down by the lanky Devin Hill, who has some range and can block some shots, and Krys Faber, who considered St. John’s two years ago as a recruit but didn’t see much time under former coach Jerry Wainwright. Devin Hill hasn’t emerged as much of a rebounder, but has an okay outside/ inside game, shooting 42% from the 3 but 40% from the line when he’s fouled. There is a sneaky good rebounder in Faber – he needs to be boxed out on both ends. And his size could give St. John’s problems.
Interim coach Tracy Webster started JUCO transfer Mike Stovall, who often rode pine, over Ohio State transfer Eric Wallace. Stovall scored 30 on 10-21 shooting, so perhaps he has more ability than he has shown. Stovall also serves as the team’s best passer when he’s on the court, and their best steals man. Wallace can get some shots up but has struggled with his accuracy and efficiency. He’s a dunking athlete but has muffed some point blank attempts; he also shoots 32% from the line. Joining them on the wings are Tony Freeland, a freshman who has struggled to see extended time, Mario Stula, a Croatian who struggles to get his mediocre shot off and does nearly nothing else on the court, and Ryan Siggins, the freshman walk-on who plays over Stula at times as a 3-point threat.
An aside: this is the only Big East team that plays 2 of their walk-ons for extended minutes… says something about the talent in-house.
At guard, Jeremiah Kelly has the starting point guard role, though he was being pushed by Mike Bizoukas before Bizoukas was injured. Kelly is a better defender (you may remember TyShwan Edmondson looking good in a conference game, that was against Bizoukas), but he struggles to score inside, has a mediocre jump shot, doesn’t have a high assist rate… but he gets a few steals and can hit some free throws. Will Walker is the team’s focal point, can be a strong outside shooter (though shooting 32% this year) who gets opportunities inside. He shoots 38% inside the arc, though, and his size obviously hinders him there. Walker is excellent at protecting the ball, even with his backup point guard duties.
St. John’s (11-5, 1-3)
3 PG Malik Boothe JR 5’9 188: 4.6 ppg* 2.3 rpg* 2.3 apg
23 G Paris Horne JR 6’3 191: 8.5 ppg* 2.9 rpg* 1.3 apg* 39.0% 3PT
1 G-F DJ Kennedy JR 6’5 215:15.8 ppg* 6.6 rpg* 3.4 apg* 37.1% 3PT
32 F Justin Brownlee JR 6′7 232: 8.2 ppg* 6.2 rpg* 1.1 spg* 1 bpg
5 F Sean Evans JR 6’8 255: 6.9 ppg* 6.6 rpg* 1.1 apg
12 G Dwight Hardy JR 6′2 187: 23.3 mpg* 11.9 ppg* 41.4% 3PT
24 F Justin Burrell JR 6’8 235: 18.3 mpg* 4.7 ppg* 2.7 rpg* 52.3% FG
31 PG Malik Stith FR 5′11 185: 12.3 mpg* 2.5 ppg* 1.3 apg
2 G-F Anthony Mason Jr. SR 6′7 210: vs. Cin – 16 mins, 1 pt, 1 ast, 2 reb,
15 F-C Dele Coker JR 6’10 252: 10.8 mpg* 2.2 ppg* 2.2 rpg* 1.5 bpg* 65.2% FG
Old habits – or bad skills – die hard. St. John’s has been able to score 1 point per possession only once, against Louisville; their offense is still anemic against conference foes. They’re going to have to score more efficiently as a team to make waves in the Big East. One big issue is the free throw shooting. The team doesn’t get to the line very much, and when they do, they are one of the worst shooting teams from the charity stripe. The game against Cincinnati was closer than it needed to be (on both sides), as the teams could not hit free throws with regularity.
One good thing about Wednesday’s game against Cincy is that they turned up the intensity. Of course, that’s partly due to an opponent that didn’t press and has inconsistent ballhandling, but if St. John’s can generate steals, they could be dangerous. But in the halfcourt, they sometimes need a player like Dwight Hardy to bail them out. And if they find themselves playing in halfcourt-centered games, one could make the case that Dwight Hardy, despite being a lesser defender, brings more to the table for the team.
Sunday’s game might be chance to let Mason try to get his scoring back. He’s attempted few shots in the 2 games since he has returned, looking tentative and deferring to others. It’s admirable to see him be a good team player, but the team needs to know what he can do offensively.
Keys to the Game:
Go Hard. Against Providence, St. John’s seemed sloppy and lackadaisical, confident in their ability to “turn it on” and get the win. This bad habit has popped up over and over at Carnesecca this year, and the coaching staff needs to remind the players that all games count. And style points count as well – as in, concentrate on the opponent. Defend well. Run the breaks well and if the offense is out of alignment, slow down and get it right. DePaul probably won’t go winless in conference; St. John’s needs to NOT be that victim.But if they play up to their ability, they should leave the game with a solid win.
Defend the Perimeter. DePaul can be dangerous from the perimeter, with Will Walker’s shooting ability complemented by Ryan Siggins and even Stovall, who will put up shots. They have inexperience in the post, and the perimeter is where the Blue Demons could mount a surprise challenge.
Attack the Gaps. The team cannot settle for the three-pointers that DePaul will allow them to take. Well, they should take a few in rhythm, of course; but there are holes in the Blue Demon defense to be exploited. They will play zone, and this is an opportunity for the team to work on their offense against the zone.
Run. DePaul has played slow so far this year. Webster will probably speed up the pace, but at this point, the Blue Demons are probably not used to running or getting back after aggressive play. St. John’s has better athletes and lots of depth, they should look to clean the glass and run.
Turnovers. It is always important not to give the game away. St. John’s must maintain their decent showing on turnovers so far and force some miscues on the other end with pressure and smart trapping.
Prediction: St. John’s win, 72-58.