Game 17: St. John's blasted, 88-63 - how the steals kill

LOUISVILLE KY - JANUARY 19: George Goode #0 of the Louisville Cardinals dunks the ball during the Big East Conference game against the St. John's Red Storm at the KFC Yum! Center on January 19 2011 in Louisville Kentucky. Louisville won 88-63. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

I. Recap | II. Turnovers are a problem | III. Keys of the Game Recap | IV. News coverage

I. Recap

Boxscore

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug? The St. John's Red Storm tripped down to Louisville and in the words of head coach Steve Lavin, "beat [the Johnnies] to the punch in all aspects of the game."

As mentioned in the recap, the Louisville Cardinals scorched the nets early, hitting 7-10 shooting from beyond the arc in the first half, 13-26 in the game. And the Storm had 25 turnovers - 13 steals by the Cardinals, including 7 by point guard Peyton Siva.

Those turnovers led directly to 30 Cardinal points, but those steals also powered an efficient and blistering offensive attack. An attack that didn't stop.

Gameflow chart, a look at turnovers - forced and unforced, and a review of yesterday's Keys to the Game, after the jump.

Here is the gameflow chart from Statsheet:

Paris Horne had a decent night and competed all the way through the game. And Sean Evans got some time on the floor; his boxscore line doesn't indicate how ineffective he was at points, but good to see him get run; he needs to finish stronger at the rim. Dwight Hardy came up lame with an injury in the second half. Although last night's early tweets seemed to indicate that he could come back if necessary, the New York Post's report makes his return sound less certain. The team's official Twitter page informs us that Hardy is day-to-day.

The wheels on the good bus Red Storm went haywire for a night. The best thing about the loss? It's only one game.

II. Turnovers are a problem

Game Thread

"Sometimes you can pull more positive things out of a particular game, but this wasn't really a game of anything positive. After a loss, it is tough to amplify anything positive. Sometimes you need to get away from it for a day or two and you come back and see something that went well. Maybe Malik [Boothe]'s aggressiveness was a good thing. And Paris battled hard. We lost their shooters, they were clicking and hitting on all cylinders." - Steve Lavin, postgame

The Red Storm couldn't pass. They could barely dribble. The Cardinals got a few good "scheme" turnovers on St. John's. But at times, the Johnnies flung the rock well out of the reach of their teammates when trying an outlet pass, or sent a skip pass into the seats, or dribbled the ball off of their feet with no pressure... the guys got rattled.

And the worrisome thing is that while the 34.7% turnover percentage is bad, the team coughs up the ball on over 20% of their possessions every game. They're in the bottom quarter of the league in turnover percentage.

In Big East play, the turnover numbers, percentages, and number of "unforced" turnovers:

W/L
Pace
STJ TO
STJ TO%
Opp Stls
Unforced TOs
@WVA
W
65
15
23.1
6
9
@PROV
W
68
16
23.5
8
8
GT
W
53
4
7.5
3
1
@ND
L
69
15
21.7
7
8
SYR
L
70
16
22.9
11
5
ND
W
69
16
23.2
6
10
@LOU
L
72
25
34.7
13
12

Now, by "unforced" turnovers, I don't mean that the opposing defense was uninvolved. I mean that the turnover was a non-steal turnover - such as a player being forced to step on the out-of-bounds line, an errant pass, an offensive foul. I'm not adding context because I don't know if this is a big issue for every team, or even for the Johnnies.

In fact, the turnover problem actually existed before conference play, despite the team's sparkling turnover rate in the non-conference and effective offense:

Pace
Tos
Opp. Stls
Unforced Tos
@St.M
66
13
7
6
COL
63
8
5
3
(N) BSU
70
8
2
6
(N) DRK
64
12
4
8
(N) ASU
61
8
2
6
WAG
71
8
3
5
St.B
67
8
3
5
@FOR
74
12
6
6
DAV
66
17
7
10
NU
67
13
8
5

Opponents weren't forcing turnovers through the steals. They were forcing the Johnnies to turn it over with their own sloppiness. Every team coughs the ball up a few times per game, loses the handle out of bounds. But St. John's ability to hold on to the ball in conference play seems worse than it was against the early-season opponents; the players are hurrying passes, and not being careful from time to time.

When that's coupled with an effective thieving defense - a team that racks up steals - it's a bad combination (for further comparison, see yesterday's post). For St. John's it seems that steals + pace kill, especially in conference play. Not against Notre Dame - a fast game where the Johnnies couldn't make shots - but against Syracuse and Louisville, the stats show a game where the Red Storm was run off the floor.

How much better can the Johnnies get at ball protection, you may ask, especially with the inexperienced Dwight Hardy and the turnover-prone Malik Boothe piloting the ship? Here is where attacking offense is helpful. Once the team strikes a balance between protecting the ball and attacking the defense, maybe those turnovers won't matter as much.

Then again, maybe that is what ailed Steve Lavin's turnover-prone UCLA Bruins.

Obviously, the Red Storm - and many teams - can win with turnovers. But those turnovers cut down on the team's margin for scoring error, and the Red Storm need to strike a better balance than they have in Big East play.

III. Keys to the Game

Pregame notes, with original Keys to the Game.

Control! The game was fast (72 possessions, compared to the Johnnies' in-conference pace of 66.9) was filled with turnovers and runouts; the Cardinals forced 13 steals. An absolute fail, and something to work on for Saturday's game, where the Cincinnati Bearcats will press as well. F

Ball Protection. As mentioned above, this is officially a problem. St. John's turned the ball over on over 30% of their possessions, didn't force turnovers to compensate, and fell victim to the shooting and athleticism of the Louisville Cardinals. F

Score in the Paint. St. John’s scored 38 of their points in the paint. They got good looks down low - though hurried - and weren't entirely horrible when they could get a shot off. Dwight Hardy and D.J. Kennedy combined for 3 -13 inside the arc; not a huge factor when the issue is getting possessions to end with shots - but not a boon to the team. B-

Defend a Hasty Offense. Louisville ran their offense, made faces, got Kyle Kuric 20 points (15 from beyond the arc), 25 points for Preston Knowles, good looks for Stephan Van Treese, George Goode, and Gorgui Dieng (who did catch a posterization from Paris Horne - now featured on Ballin' Is a Habit's POSTERIZED series). St. John's looked a step slow for much of the game. The Cardinals are a good offense, but that was also a poor performance; Louisville looked unstoppable. D-

Clear Their Misses. The Cardinals got to 32.3% of their offensive boards. They didn't miss many shots, but the Johnnies did get to the defensive rebounds; Justin Burrell led the team with 5 defensive boards, and 7 rebounds overall. B+

IV. News coverage

Red Storm Sports recap

ESPN NY -Rapid Reaction: Louisville 88, St. John's 63 - Colleges Blog - ESPN New York

SCARY MOMENT: Dwight Hardy, St. John's leading scorer on the season, came down awkwardly on an ankle in the second half, and had to be helped off the floor. But the report from the St. John's bench was that it's not a serious injury -- Hardy could have returned to the game, but with the outcome no longer in question, Lavin kept him on the bench.

SB Nation - St. John's Basketball Score: Louisville Rout Red Storm, 88-63 - SB Nation New York

Johnny Jungle - Kentucky Fried Johnnies

NY Post - Johnnies wilt under pressure - NYPOST.com

NCAA Fanhouse - Louisville Shoots Lights Out in Blowout Victory Over St. John's

How it was lost: Runs. With the score tied at 13 in the first half, Louisville went on a 21-2 run that basically put the game away. An experienced St. John's team failed to run its deliberate offense and was baited into an up and down game with the Cards. The Red Storm don't have the horses, and they got burned.

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