What the hell? The Red Storm won?
What a win - 74-55 over the Louisville Cardinals! Efficient scoring, crisp ballhandling, dunks, and that look of confusion the Red Storm usually makes, they put on another team.
I didn't want to see the team lose 10 straight on their way out of the season. And in front of the 25th anniversary crowd, it's nice to send the fans home with a win. That said, I don't think the Red Storm will face an opponent with such struggles away from home, that struggles to get points out of the guards, and with Edgar Sosa, who at his worst is a momentum-killing bad shot machine with questionable ballhandling abilities.
But what a win - a rousing, no-doubter of a win. ESPN turned away from the game to something competitive, because the spanking of an uninspired Pitino team was too boring.
Justin Burrell was a man on both ends with 14 points and 8 boards on 5 of 9 shooting; D.J. Kennedy had 15 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds (and 10 foul shots) including a sweet alley-oop to Anthony Mason Jr., who looked like he had the athleticism back; and Boothe had 8 points, 3 steals, 3 assists, and looked so active probing the Cardinals defense.
I will say, again, the Cards struggled through the game. Most of them sleepwalked through the action; the press was weak, the ballhandling was terrible, and only Samuels could score. But the Red Storm, they could be heroes, if just for one day.
From the Keys to the Game:
Handle the Press. St. John's abused the press for stretches. They had 10 turnovers to the Cardinals' 16... and St. John's put up almost 1.2 points per possession. That's unheard of from this team! A
Aggressive Play Gets To the Line. The Storm was aggressive, though they were stagnant at times. Still, they enjoyed many trips to the line. A-
Defend the Paint. Samuels did very well when they gave him the ball; the other Cardinals players seemed confused a lot, and they didn't dominate inside. For some reason, they stopped looking inside to Samardo. Their loss... literally. B
Body Up Samuels + Swopshire. The team seemed to struggle with Samardo Samuels early, and there were some defensive breakdowns in the paint, but the team played a solid game, even with Rob Thomas defending Samuels at times. B+
Get The Weapons Going. The weapons were pretty crisp out there on offense. And an extra weapon - Malik Boothe - making plays, directing traffic, scoring a little and getting steals... nice, nice game from Boothe, we hope to see more of that from him. A-