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Game #13: Big East opener - St. John's at Providence Friars

Cross-posted at Friar Blog which has a preview from the Providence side. Please read both for the wraparound blog information experience.

We lost quite a few players but our other guys just have to step up and play, that's just how it is. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you, it's a great opportunity for the young guys to step up and play. We blocked out, but they are strong. They pushed us out from underneath the rim. We have to do a better job of being strong enough to keep teams away from the glass.

- Norm Roberts, after 70-62 loss against Miami (boxscore)

It's time for the Red Storm to step in to the bright lights of Big East conference season for St. John's.

They come into conference play with a 9-3 record that sounds good, but features wins against cupcakes (Strength of Schedule so far: 272) and three losses against the ACC foes Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami. Those weren't pretty losses.

The losses featured hefty disparities in St. John's ability to get to the free throw line vs their ability to keep their opponents off the line (except for Virginia Tech) and a serious beating on the offensive glass/ second chance opportunities.

A preview with tables, keys to the game, and more below the fold.

So, a chart with the three game averages (from the ACC foes) and St. John's average numbers in those games for offensive and defensive rebounding.

(Technical note: the following chart includes a completely made up number, which is the aggregate of field goal attempts and free throw attempts. The point of the metric - and this assumes a team can achieve around 1 point per possession for each shot taken from the floor, and 1 point per free throw - is that St. John's ACC opponents have been given more opportunites to score points. And that can't be good.)

3 Game Averages
St. John's
ACC Opponents
Difference
Offensive Rebounds
9.0
15.3
-6.3
Defensive Rebounds
17.7
23.7
-6.0
Possessions (Avg)
69.3
FG Att + FT Att
76.0
84.0
-8.0

 

Justin Burrell vs MIAOne thing last year's St. John's team was good at in conference play was defensive rebounding. In other words, they kept the other team off of the glass, minimized second chance points, and minimized opponents' possessions. This squad is not good enough at scoring to get beat on the glass like THIS.

And so the conference season opens with more questions than answers. Who is the real St. John's? Can Sean Evans play like he has in conference? Is Justin Burrell going to be a factor? Can anyone hit a three-pointer? Can anyone be consistent on offense? Are one of the centers ready to be a rebounding role player?

The Red Storm travels to play a Providence Friar team who have struggled a bit under new head coach Keno Davis. The Friars have lost to Boston College (by less than the Red Storm did) and Baylor; and have lost to St. Mary's College and Northeastern, in a pair of games where their offensive turnover rate was over 23%.

The Red Storm won a thrilling game against the Friars in 2008 at the on-campus Carnesecca Arena, the last of a winning streak that owed as much to the scheduling as it did to effective play.

The funny thing about the game? The Friars shot better and went to the free throw line about as much. St. John's won by not turning the ball over and with offensive rebounding, and some sure outside and foul shooting from the now-departed Larry Wright. In truth, Wright's shooting was substandard in that game, but let's not have that get in the way of a good story.

St. John's

st john's logoThe team was somewhat aggressive against Miami, and will continue to run. And they need to; they cannot shoot the three-pointer, shooting at a 29% clip. To counter this, the team will look to get transition attempts and offensive rebounds.

They won't take a lot of midrange jump shots, but Sean Evans, Justin Burrell, and Rob Thomas will do some work down low. Evans is the bull with his head down, Rob Thomas is the one with the crafty touch around the basket, and Burrell is the agile talent who has been taking more outside shots... and otherwise has not been as aggressive as expected. Evans draws a number of foul shots but hits less than half of his attempts.

From the guard positions, Paris Horne will continue to be the three-point shooter and speedy slasher (though he does not draw fouls), DJ Kennedy will slash (and hopefully hit a few more jumpers, and freshman Quincy Roberts will start and hopefully bring the game he brought to the Miami contest. Quincy scored 14 points (4-11 with 5-6 FT's), 9 rebounds, and 3 assists, along with 3 turnovers. TyShwan Edmondson is the other freshman ball handler and he showed some unexpected activity against Miami, deflecting passes with his long arms and going 3-7 from the field.

Expect the coaching staff to emphasize toughness, blocking out and rebounding, which means there will be a lot of grappling on the low blocks. And against a team like Providence that is in a serious shooting slump, expect the Johnnies to whip out some zone.

G 23 Paris Horne SO 6'3" 185 lbs - 12.6 ppg/ 3.1 rpg/ 2.4 apg/ 35% 3PT

G/F 1 DJ Kennedy SO 6'6" 210 lbs - 12.9 ppg/ 7.2 rpg/ 2.6 apg/ 1.2 spg/ 31% 3PT

G 10 Quincy Roberts FR 6'5" 190 lbs - 5.3 ppg/ 2.7 rpg/ 44% FG

F 24 Justin Burrell SO 6'8" 240 lbs - 10.5 ppg/ 4.5 rpg/ 56.5% FG

PF 5 Sean Evans SO 6'8" 250 lbs - 10.2 ppg/ 6.3 rpg/ 1 spg/ 52% FG/ 45% FT

Bench

F 55 Rob Thomas SO 6'6" 226 lbs - 5.3 ppg/ 3.2 rpg (2 offensive)/ 11.5 mpg

C 15 Dele Coker SO 6'10" 260 lbs - 3.9 ppg/ 2.5 rpg/ 1.1 bpg/ 2.7 fouls per game/ 12.4 mpg

G 12 TyShwan Edmondson FR 6'4" 170 lbs - 2.2 ppg/ 1.5 fouls per game

Providence

Providence Friars logoThe Keys to the Game and player outlook come from our friends at FriarBlog; we worked out a scouting report exchange:

OVERVIEW

The Providence Friars head into Big East play against St. John's with an 8-4 record. After expecting to make some noise with a new coach, a good returning point guard who missed last season, and an experienced team from top to bottom, the Friars were barely heard from in out of conference play. PC only lost one game they really shouldn't have (the opener at home against Northeastern), but didn't really beat anyone impressive (other than URI). Providence is 1-3 against teams in the top 100 RPI rankings -- their only win coming in the aforementioned in-state rival game at home versus Rhode Island (#44 in RPI), which always favors the home team.

The main reason why Providence has lost 4 games?

3-point shooting. Plain and simple. The Friars are shooting an abysmal 28.6% from downtown (down a Big East worse 9% from last year), which is good for a sparkling #302 out of 344 in the nation. When it's the focal part of your offensive game plan and you hoist up on average 22 per game and they just 'aint going in, you will run into trouble. That being said, the Friars will continue to shoot threes in big numbers to try to mask their weak interior offense.

The Friars continue to improve on the defensive end, with Keno Davis mixing up defenses throughout the season. The zone hasn't seen much success against some of the better teams the Friars have faced, so it will be interesting to see if they will force St. John's to settle for outside jumpers.

Providence has been very good on the offensive glass, getting 15 per game (#18 in the nation), lead by Geoff McDermott with 3.2 per game. Defensive rebounding has been another story (24 per game, 141st in the nation) -- While McDermott leads the team with 5 Def RPG, Jonathan Kale and Randall Hanke only pull in about 3 each.

The Friars will be taking a 7-game home win streak into the game, having not lost at the Dunk since the opening loss to Northeastern. PC is 4-5 when their BIG EAST opener has been at home (0-2 in home openers versus St. John's).

KEY PLAYERS

G #13 Weyinmi Efejuku (SR) (as the AP likes to always mention, WAY’-mee ehf-eh-JOO’-koo)

Stats: 27.9 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 33.3% 3FG%

Efejuku is Providence's most talented player -- when he decides to turn it on. In his first three seasons, Wey bounced around between games of absolute invisibility and completely taking over games -- and often found himself inside former coach Tim Welsh's doghouse. This season he has been more consistent overall game-to-game. However, much like the Friars as a team, Efejuku has had a lot of Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde first half / second halves. For example, Providence was trailing by 11 to lowly Jackson State at the half, and Efejuku had only 2 points (and very few touches). After Keno Davis apparently got in his face during the halftime speech, Efejuku took over the game and scored 16 points in the second half -- driving to the basket at will and seeming unstoppable at times. The Friars went on to win by 14.

Efejuku is one of the few Friars who can take his man off the dribble. It also helps that he has been one of the few Friars who hasn't taken a complete nosedive in three-point percentage. If he is feeling it, look for him to be the Friars' go to guy on offense. He has also looked much better defensively this year.

Efejuku missed the tying foul shots with a tenth of a second left in last years 2 point loss to St. John's. Hopefully he'll forget about that one -- I sure did until I looked up last year's effin recap! F%$@.

G #2 Marshon Brooks (SO)

Stats: 22.1 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 37.7% 3FG%

Sophomore Marshon Brooks has without a doubt been the best all-around player for the Friars this season. He provides a great spark off the bench, always coming into the game in Keno's first substitution at the 17 minute mark. While he showed great athletic ability on offense and defense in limited time as a freshman last year, Brooks really improved his long-range shooting. As a result, opposing defenses have to respect his shot, allowing Brooks to drive to the basket easier.

At 6-5, Brooks also creates havoc defensively with his long and quick arms, and his not afraid to mix it up on the glass (4 rebounds per game). He helped shut down URI sharpshooter Jimmy Baron in the second half (scored only 2 of his 18 points), allowing the Friars to win a big in-state rivaly game.

Brooks has had some really dominant offensive performances so far (scored 24 points in one half , and 30 points overall against Sacred Heart), although against some weaker teams. Friar fans are anxiously awaiting to see how he performs in Big East play, since it looks like he can be a very special player. He definitely has the tools and confidence, as the Johnnies should find out!

Five Points for Providence Against ST. JOHN'S

1. Start off strong. The Friars have a habit of digging themselves in a hole to start the game forcing them to always play from behind. The team will typically come out soft on the defensive end, letting their opponents score easy baskets. Throw in some brutal first half shooting performances (26% eFG% vs. Baylor, 35% eFG% vs Northeastern and Boston College), the Friars really have had their work cut out for them in the 2nd half.

2. Take care of the ball. The Friars pulled off one nice comeback against Charlotte in the final 5 minutes and nearly came away with an amazing one against Boston College thanks to great pressure defense to force turnovers that lead to easy baskets. The Friars are getting 8.2 steals per game (8th in the Big East). PC will typically start out the game with a full-court press after made baskets, and will stick to it as long as its effective.

3. Counter PC's half time adjustments. One thing that always seemed to plague the Tim Welsh era was a failure to adjust coming out of the half. This year, whether it be Keno's coaching adjustments, motivation, urgency, or for some unknown reason, Providence has been playing considerably better in the second half. The players begin to knock down shots and get more confidence, which leads to more intensity on the defensive end.

4. Attack PC's front court. The Friars' front court isn't terribly big, aside from 6-11 center Randall Hanke. He's shooting almost 70% from the field (2nd in the Big East) but has not seen much playing time since he is such a liability on defense. As long as he repeatedly gets beat by his man down low, St. John's can really take a way a decent offensive threat (when Hanke does actually get the ball down low in the offensive game plan). Geoff McDermott and Jonathan Kale are the only other front court players getting playing time (Alex Kellogg has been hurt, and sophomore Jamine "Greedy" Peterson and Freshman Bilal Dixan are going to be redshirted), so its pretty much essential those two stay out of foul trouble. With the constant rotation and evenly distributed minutes, Keno's guys have so far done a good job avoiding foul trouble, with only 1 player (Efejuku) fouling out so far this year.

5. Transition Offense. The Friars have had some trouble defensively against the faster more athletic teams (such as Baylor). Even lowly Jackson State gave the team fits in the opening half as they repeatedly beat PC down the court. While switching to zone helped in that game temporarily, the Friars are definitely more effective in their man-to-man / matchup zone setup.

Many thanks, Frair Blog!

Five Points -or- Keys to the Game St. John's

TyShwan Edmondson vs MiamiThey're Just As Ugly! This could be an ugly game, but St. John's has to remember that even though the Friars are struggling from the outside as the Red Storm does, they still have to be defended from the arc. And St. John's has to find a way to win the effective field goal matchup by getting their shots inside.

Run. The Red Storm aren't going to win a jump shooting contest. With a little more confidence from the guards Edmondson and Roberts, the team should look upcourt and try to play uptempo when they get defensive rebounds. Get the athletes like Kennedy, Burrell, and Evans in space to finish down low and hopefully get McDermott and Jonathan Kale in foul trouble.

This Week, How About Domination? This is one of the more winnable games on the slate; the whole team HAS to show up, keep opponents off the offensive glass, and get second chance points for themselves. All the time in the weight room isn't just for show. The forwards have to make space and keep their arms out to keep space clear, grab rebounds, and control the game.

Be Bothersome. Pass deflection and banging the PC forwards. Make sure the Friars don't have a high number of assisted baskets, and make them try to score one-on-one instead of having shooters catch and shoot their attempts. Make Sharaud Curry create. Make Geoff McDermott create with his shot and not with the pass.

Don't Be Easy. Of course, the team needs to keep turnovers low. Giving the Friars easy shots and easy looks from the outside will doom the Red Storm - especially since they are wildly inequipped to make a stunning comeback from a deficit. And if the Johnnies manage to get a few turnovers from the Friars... all the better for the team's success.