Three days ago, St. John's came away with a convincing victory over their first local opponent of the season, a decisive 73-47 rout of Hofstra that served as an emphatic measure of revenge for the Pride's upset win in 2011.
One more squad comes to Carnesecca Arena for the Red Storm's pre-Thanksgiving appetizer, a young Iona Gaels team that is competing far beyond their years under veteran coach Tony Bozzella as they look to move up the ladder in the MAAC.
The last time Iona came to Queens back in 2008, this writer was a senior at St. John's the game on WSJU as the Lady Johnnies, led by the backcourt of Kia Wright, Monique McLean and Sky Lindsay, held off an older and more experienced Gaels team by the final of 65-59 to advance in the WNIT.
This time around, the tables have turned, but will the results be the same? The Rumble will help you find out more about the Gaels with some stats and vital information below.
Now in his eleventh year in New Rochelle, Bozzella has become one of the MAAC's elder statesmen, a coach who gets the most out of underrated players. This year, he has one of his greatest and first true bona fide stars in sophomore guard Damika Martinez, the reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year who has started her second season averaging just under eighteen points and more than six rebounds per game. She has been torching the nets shooting at a 48 percent shooting clip from three-point range.
Martinez can (and pretty much will) do it all, but Bozzella has yet another candidate for top freshman honors in his conference this season in the form of 5-11 forward Joy Adams. The first-year player from Orlando has already ripped down an average of nine rebounds per game, and can score too, with a total of 42 points in Iona's first four contests; not to mention a double-double in just her second career outing ten days ago, when she picked up 15 points, 12 boards, and the game-winning bucket against Long Beach State with just one second on the clock in regulation.
While Martinez gets all the attention in the backcourt, fellow sophomore Aleesha Powell runs the show at the point. The Philadelphia native hasn't scored at her freshman pace to begin the season. But she has put up points in bunches since replacing program assist leader Suzi Fregosi at the "hub of the wheel," to use a Steve Lavin expression, highlighted by a 14-point outburst against Navy in the Gaels' season opener.
New Jersey native Haley D'Angelo anchors the guard trio in her senior season, while 6-3 junior Sabrina Jeridore will cause matchup problems for the St. John's four-guard lineup on her sheer stature alone.
The Gaels only managed 31 points in their most recent contest on Sunday, but that was in a hostile Cameron Indoor Stadium environment against third-ranked Duke (who get St. John's inside Madison Square Garden in another couple of weeks). That game alone makes Iona battle-tested and a stronger opponent than they appear on paper. The keys to victory in this game are simple and twofold for the Red Storm: 1) take advantage of the extra guard, and 2) do to Martinez what they did to Shante Evans of Hofstra.
The four-guard look for St. John's will entice Tony Bozzella to pound the ball inside to Adams and Jeridore early and often, but what Iona is not counting on is the blessing the Red Storm enjoys by having 6-1 Shenneika Smith in their backcourt. Because of her size, Smith can easily move up front to guard either Adams or Jeridore while Mary Nwachukwu takes care of the other, and not have to worry about sacrificing anything on the offensive end. Smith racked up a double-double before halftime against Hofstra, and can certainly do the same against an Iona team that enters Wednesday's contest shooting just 36 percent from the field.
As far as Martinez is concerned, if given the opportunity, she can (and will) burn the Lady Johnnies, which has almost undoubtedly prompted head coach Joe Tartamella to make her an integral part of the St. John's game plan. Look for Eugeneia McPherson and Briana Brown to swarm Martinez from the opening tip, with Nadirah McKenith possibly coming over to join them once Aleesha Powell gives the ball up in the open court.
Shameless plug: In addition to live tweeting the game as I usually do at @DalyDoseOfHoops, I will most likely be appearing on the halftime show of the Iona broadcast, as my good friend Nick Guerriero handles Iona's play-by-play. Feel free to listen to the interview on the "Iona Insider" at ICGaels.com.