Ambiance: Beck, Loser (video link, pops up in a new window)
Coach Norm Roberts:
We’ve done a better job of playing on the road this year in tough environments. The last few years we’ve been getting beat by 15 or 18 points. Now the games are much closer and we are closer to getting a victory. We just have to get over the hump. That means making big plays in the gut of the game.
The second half of the Big East season is almost upon the St. John’s squad, and it cannot come fast enough. So many frustrating losses, so little consistency… the team is struggling to find its way. There have been close losses. But for the players and the fans, it’s not enough to be close; moral victories were acceptable half a decade ago. The Red Storm has to find a way to score enough to win against the decent teams (or play incredible defense) to start getting some wins and rise from the lower depths of the conference.
Fortunately, there are two reasons to hold out some hope. First, the remaining schedule can be seen as more forgiving. Highly ranked West Virginia and Syracuse are the toughest upcoming teams that the Red Storm will face. The rest of the contests will feature squads from the middle of the standings, with 5 of those games at home. The second is a Rutgers squad that can charitably be described as weak, even if they exploited Notre Dame’s aversion to defense for a win. The 1-8 Scarlet Knights have trouble scoring and holding on to the ball, have a coach who, everyone figures will be fired at the end of the season, and have struggled to stay near opponents on the scoreboard more than St. John’s has.
Can St. John’s reverse their recent low-scoring losing ways and pull out a win in Piscataway?
Tip Off: 7:30 PM, Tuesday, February 2
Location: Louis Brown Athletic Center
Radio: Bloomberg 1130
Rutgers (10-11, 1-8)
3 G Mike Rosario SO 6’3 190: 15.7 ppg* 4.3 rpg* 33.3% 3PT* 14.7 shots/g
11 F Dane Miller FR 6’6 210: 8.8 ppg* 5.7 ppg* 2.1 apg* 33.3% 3PT
24 F Jonathan Mitchell JR 6’7 225: 11.0 ppg* 5.2 rpg* 34.9% 3PT* 91.7%FT
5 C Hamady N’Diaye SR 6’11 235: 9.1 ppg* 6.4 rpg* 4.7 bpg
31 G Mike Coburn JR 6’0 185: 23.4 mpg* 7.2 ppg* 3.7 apg
23 G-F Patrick Jackson SO 6’6 210: 13.5 mpg* 3.1 ppg* 3.3 rpg
11 F-C Austin Johnson FR 6’8 230: 22.8 mpg* 2.3 ppg* 1.9 rpg
For the Rutgers scouting report, I asked to Rutgers bloggers for information. First, On the Banks of the Raritan:
They beat Notre Dame because they played good defense and limited their turnovers. If they can continue to limit their turnovers to 12 or less, they should find themselves in more games come the 10:00 mark in the second half. In their lopsided losses to teams like Villanova, Georgetown, and Marquette, first half turnovers killed them.
Against Notre Dame, RU committed just five turnovers. It also helps when our best player is hot. Mike Rosario scored 18 in the first half against the Irish and finished with a game high 24. In order to win against St. John’s they will also need another rebounding effort from our guards like we did against Notre Dame. James Beatty and Rosario combined for 16 on Saturday.
And on the player-by-player depth chart, Bleed Scarlet chips in:
C: Hamady N’Diaye, Brian Okam. N’Diaye has finally come into his own, and could be a weapon on any team. The knock on him was always that he was so raw. I thought Okam would be the project of all projects, and while he needs work, he’s an interesting shot blocker in his own right to keep an eye on.
PF: Jon Mitchell, Austin Johnson. Mitchell is a decent 3 who’s playing out of position. He’s a transfer from Florida who came back to the metro area for more playing time. Johnson’s just a freshman who’s being pressed into action early out of necessity.
SF: Dane Miller, Pat Jackson. Miller has everyone excited, because he’s like a J.R. Inman who actually cares. When he was a freshman, it looked like Inman was going to be huge, but he never improved under Hill. he was always so lethargic on the court though, and that’s not the case here. Jackson could/should be a decent reserve, but Hill’s never handled similar players well in the past, and has again overreacted by cutting his minutes too much.
SG: Mike Rosario. Rosario is essentially a streaky volume shooter. He could absolutely be the dangerous lead scorer on a tourney team, but he’s not nearly as good a shooter as Quincy Douby was. The combination of not having a true compliment like Echenique puts way too much on his shoulders, and the coaching staff has failed in trying to improve his shot selection and getting other players involved in the offense. It’s ugly, ugly basketball.
PG: James Beatty, Mike Coburn. Beatty’s the first real point that Hill has ever had. Can score a bit too, ala Jerome Coleman back in the day. Yet, Hill and staff continue to show favoritism towards Coburn, who’s really just an undersized 2. He’s an ok third guard though.
St. John’s (12-7, 2-5)
3 PG Malik Boothe JR 5’9 188: 4.1 ppg* 2.1 apg
23 G Paris Horne JR 6’3 191: 8.3 ppg* 3.1 rpg* 37.9% 3PT
1 G-F DJ Kennedy JR 6’5 215: 15.0 ppg* 6.4 rpg* 3.3 apg* 34.7% 3PT
2 G-F Anthony Mason Jr. SR 6’7 210: 20 mpg* 5.7 ppg* 4.3 rpg
5 F Sean Evans JR 6’8 255: 7.1 ppg* 6.5 rpg
12 G Dwight Hardy JR 6′2 187: 23.2 mpg* 11.9 ppg* 41.3% 3PT
32 F Justin Brownlee JR 6′7 232: 21.2 mpg* 7.4 ppg* 5.6 rpg
24 F Justin Burrell JR 6’8 235: 18 mpg* 5.6 ppg* 3.2 rpg* 52.4% FG
31 PG Malik Stith FR 5’11 185: 12.5 mpg* 2.0 ppg* 1.4 apg
11 G Omari Lawrence FR 6’4 215: 10.6 mpg* 2.7 ppg* 1.8 rpg
15 F-C Dele Coker JR 6’10 252: 10.2 mpg* 2.2 ppg* 1.9 rpg* 1.3 bpg* 65.5% FG
Keys to the Game
Garden State Stealing. It’s impressive how a roster of players can all conspire to give the ball away. One can feel the unison in the Scarlet Knights; only Jonathan Mitchell and Mike Rosario take shots and turn the ball over less than 20% of the time (Hamady N’Diaye is not as active in the offensive sets). In Rosario’s case, it’s because when he touches the ball, he feels the need to take a shot. The Knights should be bumped, trapped, and harassed into giving up the ball, their lunch money, and anything else they’ve got.
The Garbagemen. Rutgers isn’t great on the defensive glass. St. John’s has to send the forwards in to clean up offensive misses and make second shots. And with a shotblocker like N’Diaye around, there will be loose balls for the taking.
Hands Up! Defend the Rutgers’ jump shooters. Simply playing to defensive principles should keep the Scarlet Knights inaccurate and shooting the ball after a quick and ineffective one-on-one move.
Offensive Execution. St. John’s will probably need a couple of solid performances from Dwight Hardy and DJ Kennedy (or Sean Evans/ Justin Burrell). But decent performances all around will also put this game away.
Keep Cool. The Red Storm has to make sure to defend without fouling, and to not turn the ball over. Rutgers may come out on fire, feeling it from the win over Notre Dame; but St. John’s has to weather their valiant attack and take a road win. Dane Miller and Mike Rosario will have nice stretches, but St. John’s has to run their sets, take smart shots, and not underestimate their opponent.
Prediction: St. John’s has a nice run in the second half and puts Rutgers away, 66-59.
Transplanted New Yorker and now Midwesterner Peter a/k/a Pico writes for the East Coast Bias and the Church of Bracketology and for Johnny Jungle, doing the Calm Before the Storm posts. Pico is also on Twitter, @ECoastBias.