Ambiance: The Roots, "Without a Doubt" (video link, pops up in a new window)
The last game of the Philly Hoop Group Classic pairs St. John's against the Temple Owls, who have knocked off Virginia Tech and Siena, and came within a point of Georgetown in one of this year's ugliest games televised on national television. And Red Storm coach Norm Roberts gets to match wits against another coach named Fran.
Now as I write this, Temple is muscling around Virginia Tech. Crushing them, really, like a major conference team beats on a local patsy. While the stats above don't reflect it, Lavoy Allen is singlehandedly demolishing a physical ACC team that manhandled this group of Johnnies for two years running. The Hokies are not making their shots at all. Neither is Temple, but the Owls' defense is making the Hokies an unsuccessful one-man gang.
Temple's defense has been elite so far this year, frustrating Georgetown (in a 1-point loss) and Siena, both preseason top-25 selections.
In fact, the Owls' worst game defensively was... against Siena, a game that also featured the fast pace that St. John's will try to bring tomorrow. The slowest paced game St. John's has played so far was the close loss to St. Bonaventure, who also play in the Atlantic-10, have a preseason all league player at forward, and also feature questionable outside shooting. And questionable inside shooting.
Has St. John's figured out how to effectively defend a dynamic forward? Can they score in a slower-paced game, or assert their will and speed the tempo?
If they are to avoid the mistakes of the Bonaventure game, the Red Storm have to force missed shots - not necessarily from the all-A-10 Lavoy Allen, but from the team - and they have got to dominate the glass. A team can't push if they don't move the ball upcourt against a team scrambling to switch to defense. The tempo's the key in this one.
(All stats previous to Friday's games)
4 G Juan Fernandez SO 6'4 180 13 ppg* 3.3 apg* 47% 3-pt
10 G Luis Guzman SR 6'3 200 2.5 ppg* 3.5 rpg* 3.3 apg
24 F Lavoy Allen JR 6'9 225 11.3 ppg* 11.3 rpg* 1 bpg* 1.5 spg
2 G Ryan Brooks SR 6'4 200 15.8 ppg* 4.8 rpg* 2.8 apg
23 Ramone Moore FR 6'4 180 19.3 mpg* 7 ppg* 3.3 rpg* 1 spg* 54.2% FG
30 Craig Williams JR 6'9 240 14.8 mpg* 5.8 ppg
Temple spent Friday night at home, frustrating a Virginia Tech team that likes to play slow, defensive-oriented ball. The Hokies found themselves missing a lot of shots and unable to stop Lavoy Allen. Temple played some zone (the 2-3 matchup that John Chaney used to use?) to frustrate the Hokies, though the pace of the game was actually fast... and neither team had efficient scorers, except for Temple's Lavoy Allen, who went 8 of 9 for the field.
First-team all Atlantic 10 preseason selection Allen has size and some range; he stays on the floor, can pass, rebound at both ends, and has been good at holding on to the ball; he might be the Owls' best player. Argentine Juan Fernandez is also a dangerous one; he's not necessarily the type to put up a lot of shots, but he has been incredibly efficient this year. He doubles as the Owls' best passer and playmaker, and also is decent at holding on to the ball.
Wing Ryan Brooks is most likely to take a shot. He does most of his damage inside the arc this year, but shot 41% from the three last year, while taking half of his shots from distance.
Nigerian Michael Eric is a shot blocker, but will also put up some shots; he's a good defensive rebounder but is prone to a turnover or two. He can drive to the basket as well. Eric did not play against Virginia Tech with a sprained knee; Craig Williams took his place in the lineup and may do so again against St. John's. Luis Guzman from the Bronx is a good ballhandler, but never shoots. It seems that he can hit from the outside.
St. John’s (4-0)
3 PG Malik Boothe JR 5’9 188: 21.7 mpg* 5.3 ppg* 3 apg* 1.7 spg* 3.3 fouls/g
23 G Paris Horne JR 6’3 191: 26.3 mpg* 10.7 ppg* 3.3 rpg* 1spg* 35.7% 3-pt, 46.4% FG
1 G/F DJ Kennedy JR 6’5 215: 30.3 mpg* 16.3 ppg* 3.7 rpg* 2.7 apg* 46.7% 3-pt* 55.6% FG
24 F Justin Burrell JR 6’8 235: 17.3 mpg* 5.3 ppg* 4 rpg* 57.1% FG* 3.7 fouls/g
5 F Sean Evans JR 6’8 255: 22.7 mpg* 8.7 ppg* 5 rpg
12 G Dwight Hardy JR 6'2 187: 23.3 mpg* 10.5 ppg* 2 apg* 2 TO/g* 37.5% 3-pt
32 F Justin Brownlee JR 6'7 232: 18 mpg* 9.5 ppg* 5 rpg* 1.5 spg
St. John's spent Friday evening in the Palestra making Siena fans and announcers complain about their aggressive offensive style, likening it to a street game. Funny, Siena's game often looks a little wild and loose as well. Guards DJ Kennedy and Dwight Hardy made plays, with Kennedy playing the role of "unstoppable", drawing fouls against a Saints team that hardly fouls. Nice work.
Up front, Brownlee came off the bench and mixed good scoring with occasionally questionable selection. Starters Burrell and Evans played decent defense. Burrell was hampered by turnovers and possibly a lack of seeing the ball, while Evans was hampered with foul trouble. He still found 8 rebounds in 15 minutes, a nice performance. Boothe was a steady hand and Omari Lawrence's basketball IQ continues to impress. Paris Horne got into the game as a finisher late. Dele Coker had a nice block. Quincy Roberts - from Harrisburg, mid-state - didn't get into the game.
Against Temple, St. John's might need to get more performance up front, especially on the glass. Temple's frontcourt has height and can be imposing; boxing out will be key, as will engaging them on defense. The opposition plays very god team defense and has good recognition on offense; playing fast will be the best way to swing the game in the Red Storm's favor. The hometown fans will be cheering for the Owls.
Keys to the Game:
Keep Up The Pace! Temple is good at playing a slow pace, and were least effective on defense when they were being run up and down the court. St. John's has to own the boards, throw smart outlet passes, and shove their athleticism down the Owls' throat. If the Storm can force long jump shots, that will go a long way to dominating the pace - with guards picking up the long caroms and putting the Owls on defense.
Theivery. The Owls are very good at holding on to the ball - or they have been so far. But the tall guards can be pressed. And as part of keeping up the pace, St. John's has to stay in their face and rush their shots. They can be flustered, and are a young team.
Box Out. Someone needs to find Lavoy Allen from the shootaround. He is crafty in finding spaces against other teams and scoring from all over the court. He's best at the rim, and can throw down a dunk. St. John's has to keep him far from the glass, both to stop his scoring and to corral rebounds.
Put Up Shots (And Hit Them, Of Course). Again, St. John's needs to put up shots to be effective. A lot goes into putting up more shots - not turning the ball over, rebounding on both ends, and finding openings against man and zone defenses. Hopefully, Temple's occasionally-errant shooting will cause them to have a dry spell; when this happens, St. John's has to find ways to put up more shots and create separation.
Big Days From the Wings. I think this game will require St. John's to hit a few more three-point shots. Or at the very least, get some solid performances from Kennedy and Paris Horne. The wings are the Red Storm's strength, and Temple will work hard to negate their effectiveness.