"Consistency, Jamal. Can you see it?" - USA TODAY Sports
Consistency will be vital for this young St. John's team if they want to enjoy a successful season.
Inconsistency has characterized the Red Storm season. Of course with the youngest in the nation, the growing pains will be there and they will devour your stomach as a coach and cause you to rip your hair out as a fan.
After a deflating loss to start Big East play - an overtime loss to Villanova, a road win against ranked Cincinnati, a home loss to Rutgers, and a beating from Georgetown - St. John's has tried to find consistency in different aspects of the game, even when the shots aren't falling.
St. John's best game came against then-ranked 14/15 Cincinnati where the team won the rebounding battle, only missed 3 of their 11 free throws and scored inside at will with 34 of their 53 points coming inside the painted area.
In their last 5 games, St. John's has out-rebounded their opponent 3 times. In the game against Depaul, the rebounding was close, with DePaul grabbing more boards 43-41 (and missing many more shots).
Along with the ability to rebound, having multiple scorers has also become a consistent pattern over the 5 game stretch. D`Angelo Harrison, who has shoulder the load a majority of the season, has gotten help from his teammates. He's gotten so much help that in his last 3 games Harrison is averaging 10 points per game and the Red Storm are 2-1.
"Having more threats on the court now means you can't double team me, you can't help so much," Harrison said after the DePaul win. "You double team me, Jamal's gonna have a night like he did [against the Blue Demons]. I can use more energy on defense, on rebounding. "
Jamal Branch seems to becoming into his own at the point guard position, especially after Saturday's win. Against DePaul, Branch led the team with 18 points and found a verity of ways to score the ball - using a pull-up jumper or driving towards the basket. Branch also had 4 steals and 3 assists in the game.
Adding to Branch's scoring is Sir`Dominic Pointer - he is averaging 9.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2 assists a game, becoming an offensive linchpin while providing the best perimeter defense on the squad.
After the game against DePaul, Pointer said he felt he was playing better and with confidence. "Usually I don't take shots but coach Lav[in] said I'm hurting the team by not shooting the ball," said Pointer.
JaKarr Sampson has also found some consistent play after his poor Big East opener against Villanova. He's averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds in his last 5 games, winning Big East Rookie of the Week on Monday.
The Red Storm need to continue playing the same pattern as well as having other guys step up.
Chris Obekpa has been as fearsome an inside defender as there is in college basketball. Averaging a nation-best 4.8 blocks per game, Obekpa also rebounds well, though his shot blocking pace has slowed down in Big East play.
Overall, in their last 5 games St. John's has shown more consistency in their play. The Johnnies are building a style. The game against Georgetown definitely left a bad taste in the mouth of the players but it didn't discourage the team, rather gave them added motivation. Something a young team always needs to get things going.
Two wins against ranked opponents also speaks volumes. If St. John's can win the games they are supposed to, like against DePaul and down the road against USF as well as take the games that come down to the wire, like they should have with Rutgers and Villanova, the team can set their sights for a possible NIT-bid this season, and maybe more.
It isn't too far-fetched to think this Red Storm squad can be strong the rest of the way. There are still games against Louisville and Syracuse that will not be kind, but stranger things have happened.
To win, consistency from players other than Harrison has to be the motto for a young team like St. John's. Consistency to play the game and win the fundamental battles. Convert down low baskets, hit free throws, rebound the ball and add a little luck in certain situations and you have winning ways.
Coach Lavin has a lot of work ahead of him and he has stressed it time in and time out in wins and loses.
The team is still without Orlando Sanchez, who could be a tremendous boost to the squad but still, with the team they have, St. John's needs to find consistency and battle their way through the Big East.
It may cost viewers a few patches of hairs but the ending result could be a joyful one.
And consistency on the court can lead to consistency in the future from the program.
Which part of their game is vital for St. John's to have a successful season?
Rebounding (7 votes)
Free Throws (11 votes)
Scoring (4 votes)
22 total votes