(Photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review/ AP)
Read more recap in Bart's Breakdown from Johnny Jungle
Another game, another drubbing.
St. John's lost to #1 Pittsburgh Panthers on Sunday 90-67, in a bizarrely fast-paced game clocking in at 74 possessions for each team. Maybe it was the turnovers that sped things up - 24 for St. John's, and 15 for Pitt. For those of you counting, that means over 32% of St. John's possessions ended in a turnover. I'm going to come back to this later in the post.
Pitt had a very efficient game, with an effective field goal percentage of 55%, including 8-19 from beyond the arc. St. John's doesn't use the three-pointer (thankfully, because they miss them a lot), and only shot 5 from outside the arc.
The game was lost on rebounding and extremely physical play - DeJaun Blair had 10 offensive rebounds himself. Sean Evans, Rob Thomas, and DJ Kennedy played decently on the boards but couldn't keep Blair out. Meanwhile, Dele Coker and Justin Burrell played uneventful minutes in terms of rebounding.
Coker had some nice plays, a good putback, and at times seemed like he could hang with Pitt. Burrell couldn't find room to operate, which is partly on the offense, but partly on him... though apparently Burrell's back was bothering him. Must have been the pounding of DeJuan Blair.
But freshman or not, Quincy Roberts had 8 turnovers. He doesn't know where to pass to, and when he is passing, it's not leading to easy baskets for his teammates. The problem here is not just the freshman combo guard pressed into service, or Ty Edmondson who so far has shown nothing impressive in his freshman year. There is a general lack of passing ability, a difficulty in holding on to the ball that has improved since last year, but is still worrisome.
If Malik Boothe had played (like we thought he might), would it have been better? Yes, but not by much. The turnovers and the defense have been weak points since the competition stepped up in class. There is potential on this team, but something needs to change. And I don't mean the players.
Even the Gothamist, not deeply into college basketball, is calling to fix St. John's. Though saying the staff needs another year... this is their "other year." Hard to really rip on a beating against the number 1 team in the country. And score-wise, the team was expected to lose handily, though the spread was a little less. But the simple plays that this team can't make, the inability to get star performances out of Burrell or a good performance out of Paris Horne, the high field goal percentages and offensive rebounds given up by the team this year... those are all reasons to bring in another voice.
I am not one for calling for firings, but this is not working. News links after the jump.
In the news:
From the AP - the NY Post didn't send Lenn Robbins to the game?:
With center Justin Burrell's back bothering him, St. John's had no answer for Blair, known to his teammates as "Big Fella." Roberts joked that he has finally figured out a way to stop Pitt's big man.
"A Mack Truck," he said. "DeJuan Blair is an absolute beast. It seems like his mindset is, 'I'm going to get the ball.' We got physically worn down."
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Blair spoils former teammate's homecoming
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review -Top-ranked Pitt overwhelms St. John's:
But the Panthers eventually lived up to their lofty ranking by robbing St. John's of its will to win.
"Even when it was a close game," Pitt point guard Levance Fields said, "you could tell they really didn't think they had a chance."....
Pitt forced St. John's into a season-high 24 turnovers in a defensive frenzy that saw rattled freshman point guard Quincy Roberts passing to front-row spectators nearly as much as his own teammates. Roberts, a Harrisburg native and converted shooting guard, finished with eight turnovers and one assist in 32 minutes.
Blair had 10 offensive rebounds and went 9 for 11 from the free-throw line.
He manhandled St. John's sophomore forward Justin Burrell, who was playing with three fractured bones in his face and aggravated a back injury on the opening tip. Burrell went 2 for 8 from the field and finished with five points in 18 minutes.
NY Newsday - Kennedy, St. John's can't hold off No. 1 Pitt
...at least for one half yesterday afternoon, St. John's threatened to spoil the Panthers' party. St. John's trailed by five at the break before Pittsburgh used a pair of big runs in the second half to pull away for a 90-67 victory.
Pittsburgh went on runs of 15-2 and 15-4 to break the game open after leading by three early in the second half....
"Everybody in our locker room, from the players to the coaches, thought we could win," Kennedy said. "As you can see, in the first half, we came out and went blow-for-blow with them."
NY Daily News - Loss is the Pitts for Storm
Justin Burrell was charged with stopping Blair but never became a factor in the game. He aggravated a sore back banging with Blair in the game's first minute, but also said, "That's no excuse ... I didn't show up to play today." He took eight shots in just 18 minutes, finishing with five points and two rebounds.
"They wore us down a lot - they out-toughed us," Burrell said. "We didn't bring the intensity we needed to win this game. That was the difference between Notre Dame and this."