Moe Harkess has emerged as a solid rebounder for the Red Storm. He needs some of his friends to join. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Mama said there'd be days like this.
St. John's was upset by the CAA's Northeastern Huskies at Carnesecca Arena on Saturday, 78-64. The Red Storm are visibly flawed - they are a a very thin and not overly large/ tall team. Aside from overflowing youth, Steve Lavin's group has a number of executable aspects in need of improvement.
A recurring issue for the Johnnies this season has been and will continue to be rebounding. Saturday's disappointing loss may have been the first of many brutalizing reminders that the Johnnies have to either get better on the glass, or find ways to win without rebounding.
See also: Unhappy Thanksgiving: St. John's loses 78-64 to Northeastern (game recap)
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"It's a liability and it will be all year long. But at least we know it's a liability."
That was St. John's associate head coach Mike Dunlap on October 25th discussing team rebounding following the team's exhibition win over C.W. Post. Thirty-two days later, still no miracles.
After losing Norvel Pelle, Amir Garrett, and JaKarr Sampson to first-semester academic ineligibility, St. John's lost a considerable amount of length - a combined 19 feet, 11 inches of length, to be exact. The current group isn't getting any personnel favors.
Are the problems on the glass exclusively due to who is on the floor?
Sure, the Johnnies would love to have another big man down low to grab opponents' misses. Who wouldn't? But St. John's could probably pull down more loose balls with the guys they have.
1. Positioning - There were many instances Saturday, and throughout the first seven games in general, that St. John's clearly failed to box out. For example, God'sgift Achiuwa is often too far underneath the basket where misses, especially from long range, ricochet out of his reach. By distancing himself from the goal even by a foot or two, the amount of area he can cover broadens.
Of Northeastern's astounding 21 offensive rebounds, 10 were pulled down by guards. Teams are going to be launching three-point attempts against St. John's left and right. Naturally, misses of this type could end up 5 or 10 feet (or even further) from the basket. This often brings the littler guys into play. The concept is fundamental - Red Storm guards, whether it be Nurideen Lindsey, Malik Stith, Phil Greene, or whoever, must locate an opponent and eliminate them from rebounding contention. 6'2'' guards like the Huskies' Jonathan Lee shouldn't be corralling 4 offensive rebounds.
2. Pick your poison - We know by now that Steve Lavin's zone defensive system is susceptible to allowing a plethora of open looks along the perimeter. Though this scheme has its pros, St. John's has been burned by its cons on multiple occasions. Let's add Saturday to the list. Northeastern shot 50% (9-18) from behind the arc. Joel Smith, who is normally their second scoring option, hit 7 threes as part of his career-high 29 points.
When teams are shooting well from the outside, the Johnnies are forced to extend its defense - whether in zone or man-to-man. As the defense extends outward, it leaves more space around the paint. Thus, more offensive rebounds for the opposition.
3. Another crasher, please! - "If you look at Gods'gift Achiwa, Moe Harkless, and Nurideen Lindsey, we've found three guys that are stabilizing their rebounding numbers," Dunlap mentioned after Saturday's loss. "We need to find a fourth, even if it's by committee."
The aforementioned trio pulled down almost 70% of St. John's 35 rebounds against Northeastern. Being that the three of them make up only about 43% of the entire rotation, there's something missing. With such a thin roster, every single player needs to crash the boards if the team wants to compete in the rebounding battle. Greene, Stith, D'Angelo Harrison, and Sir'Dominic Pointer grabbed a total of 6 rebounds in a combined 94 minutes of action. There were 73 total missed shots.
It's difficult (okay, nearly impossible) to win if your opponent grabs 21 of 44 offensive rebound opportunities - meaning the Storm only cleared 23 on the defensive side. Northeastern got to almost 50% of their misses, and were able to throw up 10 more shot attempts by a result. The Huskies were only slightly more efficient from the field than the Red Storm, but more opportunities gave them the advantage and ultimately, the win.
St. John's travels to Rupp Arena on Thursday to face the Kentucky Wildcats. Think rebounding is an issue now?