St. John's vs. Wagner game preview: Johnnies look to improve defense

US PRESSWIRE

The Red Storm open the home slate tonight against Wagner - a quick, guard-oriented squad from Staten Island.

One week after the tough loss to #20 Wisconsin, the St. John's Red Storm (0-1) return home to host the Wagner Seahawks (1-1) in an early-season inter-borough showdown. This will be the 18th time that these two schools have gone head-to-head - most recently in 2010 where the Johnnies won 69-61.

Wagner is capable of playing the Johnnies tough – as evidenced by their most recent game and their talented squad - and fourth-year head coach Steve Lavin is well aware of the danger.

Scouting Wagner: quick and dangerous

"They have the speed advantage - they are so quick off the bounce and they will probably be in the NCAA Tournament," Lavin said. He added that this will probably be the fastest team the Red Storm play this year.

D`Angelo Harrison also knows not to take the Seahawks lightly on Friday night. After attending the LIU Brooklyn game last week, D'Angelo said, "I spoke to their coach [Jack Perri], and he said not to sleep on this team. They will contend for their conference [lead]."

Wagner will at times go to four guards on the floor. One dynamic guard in particular has D'Angelo's attention - Kenneth Ortiz.

Ortiz, the 6-foot senior from Newark, has a solid start to his 2013-2104 campaign. He averages 16 points per game including a very nice 20 point performance at Penn State where he drew 12 free throw attempts. Ortiz is shooting 40% from the field and averaging three rebounds and two assists a game.

Ortiz is one of the guards that Lavin will be worried about in terms of getting to the basket and either creating opportunities for open threes or free throws. But Lavin knows the whole roster is dangerous. "They have multiple players that get down the court quickly and can beat you off the bounce to shot make and play make," he said.

Defensive focus for St. John's

Meanwhile, for St. John's, it was all about defense this week.

Since Lavin arrived in Queens four years ago they have been a defensive team. But after the first game, the defensive reputation seemed overblown. Could this be an overreaction? Absolutely, but Lavin is making sure that defense was a staple of their practices the last seven days.

Junior Sir`Dominic Pointer stated, "during practice it has been 80% defense and 20% offense." Phil Greene IV added that watching film with the coaching staff was a "pretty good ripping."

Will St. John’s size advantage be the deciding factor in tonight’s matchup against Wagner? Wagner is relatively a small team, and they're not afraid to show it with their rotation, which St. John's should take advantage of.

This could be a game where Jakarr Sampson could enjoy a big impact on this game. Coming off of a 21 point game on 9-17 shooting, Sampson’s length should make him a terror on the defensive end as well, getting rebounds and blocking a few shots.

As for the team, can they improve their offense and three-point shooting? Can they learn, improve, and maintain success on defense?

Prediction: St. John's 76 Wagner 61

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