The St. John's Red Storm (2-1) will be continuing their four-game Carnesecca Arena home stand tonight when they welcome the Hawks from Monmouth University (1-2). The game is slated for a 9 PM start, and can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Mike Corey and Jim Spanarkel will be on the call. This is the first game of the Barclays Center Classic which leads up to Thanksgiving weekend when St. John's, Ole Miss, Penn State, and Georgia Tech all head to Brooklyn.
As for tonight's game, the Johnnies will be looking to have more of a complete game than Tuesday's game against Bucknell, which wore the typical slogan "A Tale of Two Halves." St. John's in the first half against Bucknell saw their offense become very stagnant, with quick jump shots. The Storm's defense gave up the paint for Steven Kaspar and open three pointers for Robert Ayers.
In the second half, head coach Steve Lavin adjusted the game plan and switched to his match-up zone, which in turn allowed the offense to run more thoroughly. Look for the Johnnies to have more of a complete game against Monmouth.
Player focus: Dom Pointer
If the Red Storm do play a complete game against Monmouth tonight it will probably be due to the performance of their most complete player, Sir`Dominic Pointer.
"He's the type of player that will put up a triple-double and not even get talked about," junior guard D`Angelo Harrison said. It really is amazing how fitting the nickname "Costco" is for Pointer. He does whatever the team needs him to. Whether it's rebound, block shots, or lock-down the best player on the opposing side, Pointer has the skills to do it.
The only question some people had last year was whether Pointer could develop into a consistent scoring threat for St. John's. When Harrison got suspended last year, Pointer's role broadened. Though St. John's leading scorer has returned from suspension, Pointer remains a crucial piece to Lavin's puzzle. Look for the Johnnies to get a few things out of each "aisle" from Costco tonight against Monmouth.
On the opposing side, Monmouth who is in their first year competing in the MAAC after twenty-six years in the NEC, will be looking to get their first win at Carnesecca Arena in school's history. The history between the two schools is very brief, only playing two times with the last game coming in 1990.
It's all about defense for third-year Hawks head coach King Rice. Last season the Hawks forced an average of 18.1 turnovers per contest. They also finished nationally in the Top 25 in steals per game (22nd - 8.8) and turnover margin (19th - 3.2). It will be interesting to see if Monmouth is able to make St. John's uncomfortable early and put this game in doubt.
Usually you would see a team with those type of numbers at the top of their conference, but they finished sixth in their conference and lost in the first round of the NEC Tournament. That was partially due to Monmouth being a very young team. The Hawks have a total of 12 underclassmen. In addition, the roster includes 14 first- or second-year players in the program. Does this all sound familiar, St. John's fans?
A player to focus on for Steve Lavin is junior Deon Jones. The six foot six inch wing man from Wilmington, Delaware is averaging 21 points per game thus far this season. Jones, who transferred from Towson, can score from all places on the floor. He is shooting 54% from the field and 58% from three. He also hits his free throws at an impressive 84% clip.
Jones was the lone bright spot in their 82-66 loss to Seton Hall last week, when he dropped 24 points on 8-14 shooting and chipped in with 7 rebounds against the Pirates. Jones and Sir`Dominic Pointer (off the bench) could be a very fun match-up to watch this evening.
We're not expecting St. John's to have the same type issues it had with Bucknell earlier this week. St. John's 80, Monmouth 62.