This Saturday at 2:00 PM, St. John's can finally give their fans a glimpse of life after Kim Barnes Arico. The Lady Johnnies host Hofstra in their 2012-13 home opener following a two-game excursion to Daytona Beach that saw the Red Storm split decisions with Texas and Central Florida in the inaugural acts of the Joe Tartamella era.
Matchup: #20/#18 St. John's (1-1) vs. Hofstra (1-1)
Time: Saturday, Nov. 17, 2 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena (5,602), Queens, N.Y.
Last season, Hofstra came away the winner in a hotly-contested collision between the two local programs at Hempstead's Mack Center, and the 1-1 Pride will once again have an upset on their minds. The Rumble sheds further light on what could be a trap game for the Johnnies as they look to move over .500 once again.
Scouting St. John's
Following a 2012-13 debut against Texas in which they were outscored 15-4 down the stretch, the Red Storm rebounded nicely two days later, gaining a decisive win over future Big East foe Central Florida, the first for Tartamella since replacing Barnes Arico at the helm last April.
In the victory, St. John's got a 23-point performance from senior guard Shenneika Smith, playing her first game of the season after serving an NCAA-imposed suspension that kept her out of the opener. The biggest surprise for the Lady Johnnies has been junior guard Briana Brown. Brown has managed two consecutive double-figure scoring efforts to start the year, and comes into Saturday's matchup averaging fourteen points per game.
The Connecticut native played sparingly for Barnes Arico in each of her first two campaigns, but following the graduation of Da'Shena Stevens, Brown has become the biggest contributor to a four-guard lineup that has relied on experience and guile to catch their opponents off guard through the early part of the season.
Three of the four incoming freshmen have seen playing time so far, with Aliyyah Handford (6.0 PPG, 44% FG) being the most significant performer of that troika.
Now, for a look at the team the Red Storm will face...
Coached by Krista Kilburn-Steveskey, Hofstra has been built seemingly in the Red Storm's own image. The Pride's rise to prominence mirrors that of St. John's early ascent under Barnes Arico. With four WNIT appearances to their credit since 2006, Hofstra is intent on taking the next step. Despite the loss of their two senior guards, there is still more than enough talent to go around in Hempstead.
Senior forward Shante Evans is a big reason why. A mid-major version of Da'Shena Stevens in essence, Evans has improved with each passing season. With averages of fourteen points and nine rebounds coming into this weekend's battle with the Red Storm, Evans stands to go for similar numbers against a smaller and quicker St. John's team whose post presence has been significantly remade following Stevens' departure.
Hofstra may have the edge up front, but the loss of Candice Bellocchio and Nicole Capurso in the backcourt sacrifice the guard matchup into the hands of the Lady Johnnies. Sophomore Andreana Thomas has filled the gap at the point well, however, through her first two games with a combined total of fifteen points and nine assists. Candace Bond can slide down from the wing into the backcourt at any given time to give Hofstra an additional scoring punch alongside Thomas and sharpshooter Asia Jackson.
Keys to Victory for St. John's
- Interior presence.
Evans becomes the center of attention now that Da'Shena Stevens is gone, which means that the Red Storm need to exert more energy in the post. Expect Amber Thompson to see considerable minutes alongside Mary Nwachukwu regardless of whether or not the 6-2 sophomore gets the start, providing St. John's with two capable bodies up front that can double-team Evans inside and limit her touches.
- Close to the three-point line.
The Red Storm have not historically been an exceptionally gifted team from long range since Kelly McManmon graduated several years ago, and neither is Hofstra this season, entering the contest shooting 26 percent (10-for-39) from beyond the arc. With Nicole Capurso no longer around, Asia Jackson and Annie Payton, who has scored 21 points in two games off the bench, are the primary options from long range for the Pride. The danger to a double-team of Evans is that someone will ultimately be left open, but St. John's will need to rely on their athleticism to keep Hofstra off the scoreboard in that scenario.
- Draw away late.
In two games this season, Hofstra has scored more points in the first half than they have in the second, and after the intermission, the Pride have been outscored 82-55. This plays well into the hands of the Red Storm, as their senior-laden backcourt has the experience edge and track record to take over a game in the final minutes.
If this one is close coming out of the under-4 TV timeout, expect Shenneika Smith to take matters into her own hands similar to how she did in the Big East Tournament against Louisville last March. In that game, she dominated the second half and overtime en route to a 24-point outing that propelled the Lady Johnnies into the semifinals in Hartford.
The Rumble will be live from Carnesecca Arena to cover this local battle, so follow us for updates throughout the afternoon.