New Year Same Old Story

St. John’s fans thought this year might be different. They thought with a team filled with veterans and a league that lost a ton of premier talent that this could be the year they make a run. After the team surprised many going into Philadelphia and sweeping the table that this team could be for real.

Instead the Red Storm faithful have been subjected to the same old brand of basketball that has become too ritual under the Norm Robert’s regime that has led them to and 0-3 start to the Big East season.

St. John’s jumped out to an early lead and stayed in control for most of the first half holding as much as a 7 point lead at one point but the Red Storm could never bust it open. Instead the lead trickled to one only to be saved by a Dwight Hardy buzzer beater heading into the locker room.

Many fans wondered what would St. John’s do to adjust in the 2nd half? The biggest concern was rebounding the basketball on both ends but particularly on the defensive end. It was very apparent that Louisville wanted to isolate Samardo Samuels in the low block while sending the house on the offensive glass.

Louisville played 4 out 1 in isolating Samuels on the low block as seen below.

St. John’s collapsed their defense down on Samuels to help which was effective but everyone lost track of their man when it came to rebounding the ball. Look at this picture below of everyone looking up at the basket while failing to box out. This play resulted in an offensive rebound and layup for Louisville to open the 2nd half.

You think after Louisville grabbed 9 offensive rebounds in the first half that St. John’s would make it a priority in the first possession of the 2nd half to really concentrate on boxing out their man. This possession was the bad omen that made St. John’s fans say, “crap not again.”

Lets take a look at the Key’s to the Game according to JohnnyJungle.com’s pre-game column Calm Before the Storm.

Handle the Press. First and foremost, St. John’s has to handle the defensive pressure Louisville will be eager to bring. The ballhandling has to be tight, and they have to pass their way out of traps. Offensive awareness and teamwork are key. If St. John’s has a great day NOT turning over the ball, and getting quick shots that they make, there is a strong chance they will surprise the Cards on the road.

All in all St. John’s didn’t do too bad with the full court pressure of Louisville. Considering the fact that the Cardinals pressured the ball for the entire game and St. John’s only had 12 turnovers thats a pretty good day. Malik 1.0 and 2.0 each did a good job of handling the pressure and beating the press. There was one occasion where St. John’s even broke down the press for an easy layup. St. John’s still needs improvement in this area and can’t rely so heavily on the ball handling abilities of their point guards.

Grade: B

Work The Glass. Louisville is an impressive rebounding team… and St. John’s isn’t bad themselves when they put their minds and bodies to it. The game has to involve a lot of physical rough play to jockey for position and win the rebounds. Second chance points will draw fouls and easy shots in the half court sets.

Seriously, you know that Louisville is one of the best rebounding teams in the country (18th in the country with 41.2rpg) so why was this not a point of emphasis? How do you ignore the fact that they had 20 offensive rebounds against USF and 15 against Providence? St. John’s has the bodies to rebound and like Pico said in the CBTS when they put their mind and bodies to it St. John’s is pretty good. (bangs head against the wall)

Grade: F

The Meat Grinder. Slow the game down. Make it physical. In a fast-paced game, St. John’s is likely to come out the loser; while the Red Storm has shooters, they sometimes go cold, while Louisville has a full roster of inside and out scoring.

The frustrating part is that when Louisville went on their run, St. John’s hit the panic button and had a string of poorly rushed possessions which led to easy Louisville buckets. The coaching staff needs to either call a timeout to settle down the players or call for a set play to remind players to run the offense to get an open look.

Grade: D

Make The Understudies Make Plays. Stopping the stars isn’t enough; Pitino’s team can win with contributions from their bench and role players. But If those role players have to become the stars? Some of the youth on the Cardinals has been inconsistent. If St. John’s can minimize Samardo Samuels’ effect inside, and frustrate Edgar Sosa, that leaves the game up to some players who may not be ready to take the game over. Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles are experienced, talented players; but the backup forwards are learning their way in the game.

Well St. John’s limited Samardo Samuels to 9 points but he only had 6 shots. Personally I think Samuels could have ran wild if he wanted to but didn’t need to because the rest of Louisville team was making plays. I tip my cap to Preston Knowles who had a really nice game. He was hitting runners in the lane consistently while Swopshire got whatever he wanted as well. I can’t fault St. John’s for focusing in on Samuels and making other guys beat them.

Grade: B-

Get Hot In the Winter. St. John’s will also need either a hot shooting not overall, or a great stretch of scoring to hang with the Cardinals. They’ll get some run outs – and need to make those shots count. But I think this game will require a run of difficult/ defended shots, good offensive movement, and determined play.

Well we never saw that big time run by the Red Storm. St. John’s got a few buckets here and there but when push came to shove they went into a drought. There was really no motion on offense during those stretches either and thats a big problem. There are times where St. John’s has effective offensive sets but then they go away from that and it leaves you wondering what are they doing?

Grade: C-

Ugh! It’s just too much of the same old story. This quote by Coach Roberts in the post game press conference sums it up.

“It is a plus because he can get in the lane and create shots for people and he can do those things better than anybody else on the team. He also ignites our defense. He is able to get on the underneath people. He did a great job on Sosa in the first half. And we had to move Hardy to the point, he is not as quick, he can’t pressure as much. It takes him out of his rhythm because he is a scorer. And it puts him in a different position. The young kid, Stith, he’s doing a good job, he’s trying and pressuring.”

So the injury and youth cards are still being played as the excuses for the loss. Please! I didn’t notice any hesitation in Malik Boothe’s game to say his injury hampered him. Nor do I think his season average of 2.2 assists per game is really a big impact on the game. Stith isn’t ready to play big minutes nor should he. One thing I’ll agree with is the fact that Hardy isn’t as good on the ball but when you have a player like DJ Kennedy you don’t need him too. Why not run DJ as a point forward? He is our best creator and does most of his offense off the bounce anyways so why not have him bring up the ball? He’d be a matchup nightmare.

Either way all of these things should have been figured out in out of conference play and by the looks of things we’re still experimenting or according to Coach Roberts’ post game press conference, “We are right there and close to doing the right things. We just have to continue the process.” (Shaking my head)