“It was really just the plays coach was calling. He got me open on a lot of cross screens from the guards. I don’t think St. John’s knew we ran those plays.”
– Yancy Gates On Making First Eight of Nine Shots
“[Marquette has] a terrific team so we’re going to really have to execute and take care of the basketball in the beginning of the game. They play so hard on every single play and we have to match that to compete with those guys.”
–St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts on playing Marquette
This has to be a down period for both St. John’s players and coaches. So many things go wrong in each game, it’s hard to cover them all. Or know how this team can win. It’s got to come from consistent defensive effort first, the kind that frustrates the other team and forces missed shots. And then, the team has to not put forth their second worst offensive performance of the year.
From reading the play-by-play, it seems that St. John’s gave a great effort in the second half, executing in all the ways they needed to to win. But great effort in the second half does not compensate for a blown first half. I didn’t see the game, but Yancy Gates’ quote above, combined with allowing the highest shooting percentage for any St. John’s opponent all season, and combined with the fact that it took until the second half for the team to start playing hard, speaks volumes about the effort. Or maybe the Bearcats were, to paraphrase Norm Roberts, just hot on the night they were playing. Whatever that means. I guess the Bearcats’ offense was an Act of God.
Saturday, St. John’s travels to Milwaukee to take on the Marquette Golden Eagles, losers of two straight to South Florida and Villanova. Marquette is an incredibly efficient offensive squad – the most efficient in conference, in fact – who gets their best scorers shots inside the arc, refuses to turn the ball over, gets to the free throw line an impressive amount off of slashing plays and good team passing. For good measure, they actually rebound the ball well on both ends considering they nearly never are on the court with a player taller than 6’8″. Lazar Hayward – the Golden Eagles’ best rebounder – will come up in the “personnel” section. All of this against a St. John’s team that is coming off a woeful defensive performance, is mediocre at forcing turnovers and keeping the opponent off of the free throw line.
On defense, Marquette brings the pressure, with active perimeter defenders and an ability to steal the basketball. If a team can get into their sets, Marquette can be scored on; but being that one of St. John’s problems is ball handling, they will have to be perfect with the rock to make this game not a blowout. And note that with any pressure defense, it works a lot better if the defensive team is also making shots; defense against Marquette will help St. John’s offense.
Date: Saturday, February, 14
Time: 9:00 PM EST
Location: Bradley Center
TV: SNY (video feed also on JohnnyJungle.com)
Commentators: Justin Kutcher and Jack Armstrong
St. John’s Radio: Bloomberg 1130 AM
In the Booth: John Minko and Tarik Turner
Marquette Radio: ESPN Radio 540
Marquette Golden Eagles
Big East: 9-2
Their big three have been together forever, but Jerel McNeal has found himself a next gear. McNeal will be in the running for Big East Player of the Year, and it’s easy to see why: his style is impetuous, his defense is impregnable, he’s just ferocious. And he will have your heart. His steal rate AND block rates are higher than average at 6’3″; he scores with mechanical efficiency; he takes a lot of shots; he plays a lot of minutes; he rebounds a little; and he passes almost as well as Dominic James. Dwyane Wade comparisons keep popping up (but he’s a wee bit short for that, isn’t he?).
Wes Matthews and Dominic James are no slouches. At 6’5″ and 215lbs Matthews sticks mostly to scoring, and leads the team in attempts at the free throw line. He’s pretty strong. Dominic James has crazy hops but his shooting touch has deserted him; he’s shooting 28% from the three and 43% from the free throw line
(he was in the mid 60’s his first three years). Maurice Acker and David Cubillan are backups and their years have been nothing to sing about.
At forward, the Eagles look short. But Lazar Hayward plays with unparalleled effort and mans up against bigger opponents. His defensive rebound rate is in the nation’s top 100; his offensive boarding is very good as well. he scores efficiently, isn’t at all afraid to take a three-pointer, hits his foul shots, while shooting a decent amount and logging around 31 minutes per game. How can a 6’6″ forward be a short team’s rebounding force? Smarts, spacing, and hustle. Joining him on the “front” line are Dwight Burke, Jimmy Butler, and Patrick Hazel. None of them shoot frequently, but they’re efficient. 6’10” Chris Otule is around in case of blowouts.
St. John’s Red Storm
Big East: 3-9
St. John’s has struggled tremendously in the past few games shooting the ball. Shooting an embarrassing 19-61(31.1%) against Louisville and 21-65(32.3%) against Cincinnati. We should start taking bets on the site here starting the over/under at 39% What do you think?
Against Marquette St. John’s should search for the recipe of success they had and have yet to duplicate against Notre Dame. St. John’s looked to turn the corner this season when they beat the #7 team in the country at the time but have lost 8 of their last 10 since.
Defensively the Red Storm matchup pretty well against the small Golden Eagles. Malik Boothe will matchup against Dominic James, Paris Horne on Jerel McNeal, and DJ Kennedy on Wesley Matthews.
It will be interesting to see how Coach Norm Roberts rotates his big men. Many fans have been calling for playing time for the extremely efficient Rob Thomas but at the expense of who? Justin Burrell or Sean Evans? Then there is the wild card of the group Dele Coker who has
been an intimidating presence off the bench. Dele has 10 blocked shots in the past 6 games only averaging 11 minutes per game.
5 Keys to Victory
The Basics: Shoot Better, Stop Them From Shooting- Dayton won by speeding up Marquette’s pace and forcing them to shoot under 45% effective field goal percent (39% from the field overall). Tennessee held them to 43.8% eFG (37.5% from the field), and South Florida held them to 42.6% (38.9% from the field) in a slow-paced game. So holding them under 40% from the field overall, and not letting those include a high percentage of made three-pointers is key. Getting the ball out of Jerel McNeal’s hands and stifling Lazar Hayward is a start.
Less Helter and Less Skelter- St. John’s must obviously hold on to the basketball. But in addition to that, St. John’s must be intelligently aggressive – they can’t play faster than their pace, they have to control the runouts both from Marquette and from themselves; if the opportunity is not there, better to wait instead of coughing up a possession.
Fast In The Right Spurts- On a related note, the Golden Eagles would love to get their athletes into space and make plays, draw fouls, and blow this game out early. St. John’s has to expect that; make Marquette take long jumpers as often as possible, and take those rebounds and run it down their throats. They are good defenders, but St. John’s has athletes as well.
Offensive Rebounding- St. John’s misses a lot of shots. Second chance opportunities are one of the things the Red Storm actually does well; and shooting the way they are in conference, third and fourth chance opportunities might be needed.
Get Burrell and Horne Clicking… Which Means Running Your Offense. Get shots for Burrell. Get Evans shots in transition. Less DJ Kennedy shooting, less Boothe shooting bailout shots, and more Paris Horne.
Prediction: 82-59, Marquette.
For more on the game please visit Marquette’s Unofficial site Cracked Sidewalks
Pico Dulce is a midwest guy with east coast roots. He enjoys watching his sports via satellite TV because you aren’t catching too many New York games in Chicago bars. PIco is a diehard Mets and St. John’s fan and yes he does have an East Coast Bias. You can email him at email@example.com