Despite being worrisome to watch at points, St. John's 77-70 victory over the well-coached St. Mary's of Maryland Seahawks was a worthwhile practice for the players, a great reality check for the fans, and great exposure for St. Mary's Chris Harney, who looks like a coach with a strong Division I future.
But here, we're more concerned with the Red Storm's team performance, and what this means for the coming season. Below the fold, the good/ bad/ ugly of last night's performance - including Maurice Harkless' emerging game, the struggles with defense that may not be struggles at all, and the laying of bricks.
(For a better understanding of the stats below, read up on the Rumble's Tempo-Neutral Primer.)
Last night's game was interesting in terms of pace. By the numbers, it was a fast-paced game - but it was only fast paced on the Red Storm's side. The Seahawks used a deliberate offense, bled the clock, and were comfortable taking 53% of their shots from beyond the arc. Last week's CW Post game saw the Pioneers take 35.8% of their shots beyond the arc - a much more typical rate of outside shooting.
In that, last night's game was fairly atypical, though William and Mary will likely borrow from that game plan and shoot from deep - it's what they're already comfortable doing.
Last night's game remained close because the Seahawks were almost as efficient as last week's exhibition opponent (scoring .936 points per possession) and defended far better, while not turning the ball over as much as CW Post - because they used the pass, not the dribble.
The Red Storm were able to get their running game going to press the Seahawks' defense, but the St. Mary's defense got back and made those conversions that came so easy at the basket for God`sgift Achiuwa much more difficult. Some shots fell, others were rebounded by St. John's players...
We'll take this out of order, starting with the Bad: Running for nothing.
When the Red Storm were forced into the half-court offense, that offense often stopped with a D`Angelo Harrison (12 points) shot attempt.
Unfortunately, Harrison shot 1-7 from beyond the arc and 3 of 7 inside the arc. His one make from deep was a catch-and-shoot attempt; he missed a number of shots off the dribble, and missed them badly, hitting the side of the backboard on one attempt. The team as a whole shot 1 for 12 from beyond the arc, which says that
- the Red Storm aren't looking to be an outside shooting team and
- the intention is for their deep attempts to come from Harrison and Phil Greene
Greene went 1 for 6 and scored 2 points.
The Red Storm's halfcourt offense and shooting is a work in progress, which is to be expected with six newcomers and a returnee who doesn't eat up possessions on offense. Keep an eye on Harrison and Greene's shooting percentages as the year goes along. I'd expect Harrison's shot to start falling, once he finds his feel. He and Greene might need passes in the right places to be efficient shooters, as opposed to creating shots off of their dribble.
But right now, teams that can stop St. John's from running the floor constantly will find themselves within striking distance of a win.
The Good: Three impact players in Lindsey/ Harkless/ Gift
Moe Harkless was a star last night, playing an intelligent floor game. He drew 12 fouls while only took 9 official shots, an impressive ratio (1.33/1). He grabbed over 24% of the defensive rebounds while he was on the floor and almost 12% of the offensive rebounds - a real dedication to board work. He did have three turnovers, and shot 5 for 9 from the field, but he was a real offensive force.
The way Gift runs the floor is incredible, and his abilities will be a difference-maker all year. He's agile and has been very efficient in the paint (78% FG shooting, or 1.6 points per possession). Despite pressure intended to pick off the fast outlet passes, Gift only had 1 turnover.
Lindsey was less impressive, sometimes verging on out of control (and he had 4 turnovers). But his Jason Kidd-esque ability to grab a defensive rebound (he had 6) and be his own fast break will keep the Johnnies' offensive attack crisp.
Overall, the rebounding effort was excellent, with St. John's getting to an impressive 40.5% of their offensive misses. Granted, there were a lot of them, and having athletic guards means those long caroms fall towards players athletic enough to grab the rebounds.
The Ugly: Heavy bricks.
Lindsey hit 2 of his 7 free throws. Achiuwa, 1 of his 5 attempts. Sir`Dominic Pointer, 3 of his 8. Combined with the poor outside shooting, and the poor mid-range shooting as well, this team has some work to do on their shooting.
The usual? Shreddable defense.
Last year, St. John's allowed teams to shoot 37.2% from outside the arc, and 47.2% inside. Last night, the Red Storm showed many of the defensive holes that last year's team showed. In the scheme, players are encouraged to show the potential for a trap on defense, and good passing - and deft shooting - can expose those holes.
Last night, St. Mary's shot 37.1% from outside the arc, and made a point to take over 50% of their shots from deep. (They weren't talented enough to shoot 47.2% inside.) They set their feet and prepared, because they knew the openings would be there. It's not the absolute worst thing for a defense to allow itself to be permeable in favor of forcing demoralizing turnovers. But when the Red Storm defense isn't forcing those turnovers, those shots are going to be there.
Expect the defense to cause more disruptions, though, as the players get more used to reacting instinctively to their opponents' position. It took a while for the defense last year to gel into a frustrating and opportunistic unit, and that was with seniors who had played for a defensively-minded coach for three years.
There will be growing pains.