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Game #10: St. John's vs Marist Red Foxes

I now have DirecTV. The majesty and breadth of which allows this humble blogger to watch the St. John’s Red Storm suck it up visually, and not just over online radio. Tonight’s last game before conference season starts (St. John’s has one more non-conference game at Duke in February) is the annual Aeropostale Holiday Festival.

The 2-day tournament tends not to attract big luminaries and this year is no different. The bracket:

1st - Virginia Tech vs. Hofstra (6:30 ET)

2nd - St. John’s vs. Marist Red Foxes (8:30 ET)

Marist logo.gifMarist is 6-5 so far, having lost to Miami (FL) and Niagara like St. John’s. Marist has also lost to Temple, Houston, and U Mass; they’ve beaten Colgate, Bucknell, Richmond, Canisius, Wright State, and Delaware. They play at a slow pace (64.1 possessions/ 40 minutes according to kenpom.com), and they are:

- led by former St. Raymond’s (Bronx, CHSAA team) Louie McCroskey, who was known for his ferocious defense and mediocre offense. He’s still shooting poorly from the free throw line (15-23 for 65%) but 13-27 48% from beyond the arc. He’s 6’5", 208, rebounds well, and takes a plurality of the shots when he’s on the floor.
- They also have point guard David Devezin who is a solid assist man.
- Spongy Benjamin has "Spongy" as his first name, but he’s solid on the offensive and defensive glass, standing at 6’7", 228.
- Ben Farmer is 6’5", 193, and along with SpongeBob Benjamin, will block a few shots. He has also taken 50 three-pointers in the team’s 11 games, hitting 22 (44%)
- Ryan Stilphen is hitting 45% (14-31) of his free throws, 54% of his shots (34-63), and 3-8 three-pointers. I don’t get that stat line either.
- Freshman Jay Gavin comes off the bench looking to shoot. He’s a better free throw shooter, at 69%, but his guarded shots are like a hustler on the first, they need work (thanks to G-Dep for that line): 15-36 (42%) from inside the arc, 15-41 (36%) outside the arc.

As a team, the Red Foxes are shooting 61% from the free throw line. I didn't mis-type that 6.

Keys to The Game

This is MY MOTHERF**KIN’ HOUSE! The supposedly World’s Greatest Arena is home to St. John’s, though Duke has a home game there every year, and though Pittsburgh gets a huge contingent to the games at MSG, and though Syracuse brands itself as New York’s College Team… well, Madison Square Garden gets FIVE St. John’s conference home games and this Holiday Tournament. Take THAT, Syracuse. The number of games has gone down because the Red Storm simply does not draw well at the Garden; empty seats abound, the opposing team’s fans are well-heard on the broadcasts. Winning wipes the scum off of such ignominy, but St. John’s would have to win, first.

That digression is there to support the need of St. John’s to take this mediocre tournament and run with it. A 5-4 record against mediocre competition is not beneficial to putting the Red Storm back on the map. And it’s not the wins—it’s also the excitement, the passion, the look of being a home team in a major market. St. John’s’ players also have a stake—DJ Kennedy, like many others came for the opportunity to play in the big market on the big stage. St. John’s has to play with the airs of a squad that can’t believe that someone would come into their house and try to win games. McCroskey, especially, is bound to try and take over the game. The Johnnies have to play sharp, swipe at the ball (Marist is especially susceptible to turnovers) and defend the house.

We Love What You’ve Done With Your Game. Anthony Mason Jr. was awesome and effective. He’ll likely get the first start of his injury plagued season tonight, and he needs to continue to look for his slashing drives tonight, and get to the line. His defense on McCroskey will be key; his performance in the Rainbow Classic, especially against Bobby Nash of Hawai’i, was encouraging. Rob Thomas has been an absolute beast in his limited minutes, pulling down rebounds and scoring at a heavy clip—Coach Roberts needs to keep Dele Coker’s time to a cameo and let Thomas get 15 minutes of playing time.

Larry, DJ, Justin: Welcome Home. Dear Larry Wright: you’re a really good shooter, shoot the ball. In lieu of an actual shooting performance that is not in the first minute or the last 3 minutes of the game, I will look to Kennedy to make plays, steal the ball from McCroskey and Stilphen, and take smart shots, and for Burrell to rebound like a beast against Marist’s small-ish front line. He needs to look for his offensive rebounding chances, also.

I think it’ll be hard for St. John’s to lose this game; though Marist spreads the floor and takes a lot of outside shots, they don’t have the offensive beast that Niagara has. St. John’s should taste victory tonight.

EDIT: Dick "Hoops" Weiss makes mention of the Holiday Festival:

Now if [Seton] Hall, which drew a healthy crowd of 9,800 to the game, can improve on their field goal defense, it should be a fun season. We guarantee one thing - and this may be a sign of the times - there were more people at the Prudential Center in Newark than there will be at the Holiday Festival tonight at the Garden.

It's sad 'cause it's true.