D`Angelo Harrison and the "Fresh Five" face the DePaul Blue Demons for the second time this season.
After a rousing 66-63 victory against the UCLA Bruins in Madison Square Garden (that featured the possible emergence of Sir`Dom Pointer?), the Red Storm (11-16, 4-10 Big East) jump back into action against the DePaul in the final Carnesecca Arena game of the season. (And senior night for walk-on, Boris Brakalov.)
The Blue Demons hope to bring the energy and pressure that nearly earned them a win in the Chicagoland area. The February 1st matchup was a fast-paced, wild 87-81 thriller which saw both D`Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene, and Amir Garrett reach career scoring highs.
DePaul has scuffled, having gone winless in the 5 games since meeting St. John's. The Red Storm have only one win in that period, Saturday's defeat of UCLA. Both teams are looking for the kind of win that gives hope that a rebuild is underway, that a better season is on the horizon, that this year's struggles will be worth it in the long run.
A look at DePaul recently, and what St. John's can do differently to get the win, after the jump.
Mood Music: Drake, Uptown f/ Bun B + L'il Wayne (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 9:00 PM, Eastern
Vs: DePaul Blue Demons (11-15, 2-12)
Location: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: ESPNU | ESPN3 Radio: Bloomberg 1130 | Sirius 92 | XM Radio 190
Opposition blog/ message board: Under the El | Demons Abyss (message board) | We Are DePaul (message board)
Pomeroy page ($)
Storm Warnings: DePaul
"I'm really impressed with DePaul. They just have a lot of guys who can put it in the basket. They don't turn it over, and man do they speed you up. It wears on you and it exhausts you". - Notre Dame coach Mike Brey
You may not know it, but DePaul is on the cusp of being better than the worst team in the Big East. The Blue Demons have lost all five, but they have been tied or had leads in four of their last five games since St. John's knocked them off in Chicago.
Notre Dame in particular struggled to defend the Blue Demons' outside shooting. DePaul shot 9/16 (56%) from outside the arc - even without the injured Moses Morgan. Morgan, who lit St. John's up for 19 points in one of the finest performances in his DePaul career, has been sitting out with a concussion after falling on his head in the Marquette game (video).
Since Morgan's been on the bench, Oliver Purnell has mixed and matched starting lineups. Even point guard Brandon Young has come off of the bench; his scoring has been inconsistent. Jeremiah Kelly, who missed the game against St. John's, is a scoring threat from the perimeter.
Despite DePaul's defensive pressure, there is one truth about this year's Blue Demons: if a team can bet their pressure, a team can put up points. Their field goal defense is the worst in the Big East.
Storm Warnings: St. John's
The Johnnies won a number of rebounding battles against the larger UCLA Bruins on desire and activity. And importantly, despite the poor shooting percentages, the team got solid offensive efforts from Phil Greene and Sir`Dominic Pointer.
Can those two continue looking for shots, and do it more efficiently? The energy and effort helped cover up the team's current deficiencies in shooting and scoring, deficiencies that likely won't improve until the players are logging fewer minutes, have a post presence to draw attention, and have an offseason of strength, skills, and shooting training.
For now, DePaul may prove a tougher challenge, with their long shots, scrappy play, and athleticism. But the Red Storm should also have a different look, with a more mobile/ less-injured Maurice Harkless. Harkless hurt his leg early in the first DePaul game, and shot 2 for 15 from the field; expect a better performance from him at home.
This is also on of the few games where God`sgift Achiuwa, Pointer, and Amir Garrett aren't looking up at taller, more hefty opponents. And with DePaul's desire for a transition game, the Johnnies should be able to play more in the style they would like to. The end of the season is a time to lay groundwork for the Big East Tournament and for next year, when an offseason of development and reinforcements should propel the talented Johnnies to a much more rewarding season.
Five Points/ Keys to the Game
Better ballhandling. In the first meeting with DePaul, Phil Greene and Sir`Dominic Pointer struggled with turnovers early, combining for 8 in the game. Without Malik Stith to help out, both have to be smart with the ball. In the words of Phil Greene after the first contest, they have to "attack... and not wait for the pressure to come."
Attack with Harkless. DePaul will certainly be much more aware of D`Angelo Harrison. In the first game, they DePaul defenders sometimes lost him as he drifted out to the corners to wait for the ball in rhythm. Moe Harkless will have to be more of a factor, on the offensive glass and attacking in the halfcourt offense.
Energy. Yes, it's only two days since the last game. Yes, the team only has six players. But DePaul is on the same schedule, and this is one of the last games for the home fans. St. John's can't afford to be overwhelmed with the waves of Blue Demon pressure. The Johnnies have to be defensively tenacious and offensively aggressive in spurts.
Control the glass better. In the second half of the last DePaul game, the Blue Demons grabbed 40% of their missed shots (6 offensive rebounds). St. John's bested them by snagging 6 themselves, and missing fewer of their own shots. Still, the Johnnies can't let a scrappy and hungry team get those second shot opportunities.
Maintain pace control. D`Angelo Harrison admitted that in the first game, he and the squad needed some breaks to catch their breath. Taking the first quick shot may score points, but it also plays into DePaul's game plan. The Red Storm have to keep the pace at 70 possessions or under, and keep an eye on shot selection.
Prediction: St. John's has to watch out for the Blue Demons, but they should be able to win this game. But nothing is given in the Big East. St. John's wins, 84-77.