St. John's won last night's consolation bracket game against host Hawai'i in the Rainbow Classic, 68-62. The crowd was a few hundred for the game-- tip off was 11:00 AM local time on a Friday. I'm sure Hawai'i never thought they'd lose to Louisiana-Lafayette, hence the early start.
Thankfully Hawai'i has a dedicated ESPN station, audio feed available for free online, where I could hear about how "tough" St. John's is from an outside observer, and how Anthony Mason Jr. made a... "hip hop" move.
Through the prism of the keys to the game:
Keep Your Heads Up? The Red Storm played fairly tough in this game, though some untimely turnovers and some inconsistency in the middle of each half allowed the Rainbow Warriors back in the game. Mason Jr. played 27 productive minutes, Rob Thomas played 9 productive minutes; more on their games later.
Though Hawai'i has tall players, Coach Roberts concentrated on giving his best guys minutes, limiting Jasiulionis (and his balky knee) to 9 minutes, Coker to 4 minutes, and Evans to 7. In this game, Lawrence (5), Wright (4), and Horne (3) picked up 12 number of the team's 21 fouls, which is more acceptable-- their fouling hasn't been a bad habit, leading the other team to the line. In fact, St. John's too 24 free throws (making 17) compared to Hawai'i's 17.
Attack and Smother? The Warriors shot 2-17 from beyond the arc. Scorers Bobby Nash and Matt Gibson went a combined 1-12 from deep. The guards forced Hawai'i's action, taking them out of their sets. St. John's converted turnovers into long passes, run outs, and fast breaks.
Good Hands and Feet Group? As mentioned before, the fouling problem wasn't as significant as in previous games. But the rebounding left a bit to be desired. Forward Justin Burrell had 0 rebounds, though DJ Kennedy led the team with 11. The next highest rebounder was Rob Thomas with 4 boards in 9 minutes. The Warriors beat the Red Storm on the boards24-22, with 13 offensive rebounds to St. John's' 7. But we can't complain about a lack of offensive rebounds when the team shoots 60% from the field.
The triumphant return of Mason and Thomas. Anthony Mason Jr. was aggressive going to the basket, drawing 6 foul shots, shooting only one three-pointer, and going 6-8 from the field for 17 points. He shadowed Hawai'i scorer Bobby Nash for much of the game, holding him to 5-14 overall shooting for 12 points, along with his 4 fouls. Mason is credited with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and 2 turnovers, at least one of which was another "Mason needs to improve his handle" moment. And as Dick "Hoops" Weiss says, his return gives Coach Norm Roberts another player capable of scoring in double figures (though I would add Larry Wright to that list).
Thomas had a couple of nice fadeaway jumpers, 2 offensive rebounds, and generally seemed comfortable and effective on the court in his 9 minutes.
DJ Kennedy: In a slow-paced game, he had 12 points (4-4 FT, no 3PT attempts), 11 rebounds (4 offensive), 1 assist (thought he had another, he was passing well), 3 steals, 3 turnovers, and 1 foul. Nice game all around, though the turnovers could be reduced. But he has talent; at one point Coach Roberts made a nice move playing him at the 2-guard beside Mason for a bigger lineup.
Eugene Lawrence made plays when it was needed. From Sports NY:
Eugene Lawrence was more emotional than usual after St. John's loss to Ohio on Wednesday night. It was a game he -- and the rest of the Red Storm -- felt was very winnable if not for a mental breakdown, allowing the winning layup at the buzzer.
Lawrence wasn't about to let that anything like that happen again.
The senior point guard hit a three-pointer to extend the Red Storm's lead to four with 1:56 left and followed that with two straight steals of opposing lead guard Matt Gibson to lead St. John's over host Hawaii, 68-62, in the consolation bracket of the Rainbow Classic on Friday morning at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"That's just our captain," freshman D.J. Kennedy (12 points, 11 rebounds) said. "He wants it more than anyone."
Lawrence had 16 points, all in the second half, against Ohio and scored 10 points, with five assists, against the Rainbow Warriors. His effort helped snap a three-game St. John's losing streak. The Red Storm (5-3) will play the winner of Georgia-Tulane on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the fifth-place game.
"I just felt like we needed this win for our confidence," Lawrence said.
We can only hope the team builds on the win; there were some good performances but St. John's never put the game out of reach, despite harassing the guards all morning. Larry Wright only played 17 minutes, had 4 fouls, and doesn't seem to be looking for his shot; with Mason getting back into the rhythm of the team, hopefully Larry will find himself wide open with some good outside looks or some room to drive. Wright's defense is solid, but beyond that and his shooting, he doesn't rebound, pass to players in position to score, or knock the ball loose enough times to give him more of Paris Horne's or Malik Boothe's minutes.
Later today, 6.30 pm Eastern, St. John's finishes their Hawai'i sojourn with a game against a tough Tulane Green wave team that defeated Georgia with a last second shot last night.