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Game #19: Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs St. John's

That should have been a win against Cincinnati. Instead...

"It was the play before where he elbowed me right in the stomach. I just lost my cool. It really wasn't anything to get angry about. I take the blame. It was my fault, like I said." - DJ Kennedy, on what sparked the verbal altercation that got him thrown out of the game.

"We still have to stay tough. We needed to make plays and we didn't and they did. We have to be tougher with the basketball. We just couldn't make those plays, they defended us pretty well, but we didn't do a good job of moving the basketball."
- Norm Roberts, after 70-61 loss to Cincinnati

In one of the more bizarre, snakebitten turnarounds this Red Storm team has had, the Johnnies lose a 9 point lead and proceed to lose a very winnable game by 9.

The game featured quick draw whistles and a double ejection - DJ Kennedy on the St. John's side, Rashad Bishop on the Bearcat side. The team didn't stop Cincy guard  Deonta Vaughn, who found himself at the free throw line a lot. St. John's was awful with turnovers - 21 turnovers to 45 shots, while Cincy had 10 turnovers to 58 shots... St. John's gave up opportunities to score the ball. To top it off, Sean Evans undid himself with a 4-13 performance at the line.

At least Rutgers is coming in, as part of a doubleheader - the second game is Iona and Manhattan. I guess something has to be done to sell tickets... The Scarlet Knights are currently a pretty bad team, and I don't say that lightly.

They have a solid big man in Gregory Echenique... who never gets the ball.

They have a ball-hogging non-point guard (Corey Chandler) playing point while eagerly shooting bricks from outside AND inside the arc.

There is a combo guard (Mike Coburn) who gets the "shoot less" idea (there's not enough ball to go around, after all) but he combines an okay assist rate with a terrible turnover rate. I could go into a whole thing about how recruiting "winners" means nothing if you're not coaching them well on the college level, but I will step away from that to talk about the Rutgers profile.

St. John's vs Cincinnati trap

Rutgers has superlative players in certain categories - Hamady N'Diaye at shot blocking, Corey Chandler at stealing the ball, Echenique at getting to the free throw line. But the only aspects of the game they excel at is blocking shots and getting to the free throw line (and knocking them down), and excel is a relative term there. The Knights play a little slower than average on a per possession basis, and do not try to press; their rate of forcing turnovers is one of the worst in the country.

But their field goal defense, especially against 3-pointers, is very good (the rate against three is fantastic, where they allow 28% shooting). That is interesting especially since they also play three guards, the tallest of whom is 6'3" freshman Mike Rosario.

With a solid front line of JR Inman, N'Diaye, and Echenique, the Knights rebound pretty well. And that's good on the offensive end, because they are woeful scorers. The three point shooting is near the bottom in the country at 29%. The team is allergic to the assist (kind of like St. John's), preferring to run into the teeth of the defense and... I don't know what. They play a lot of man defense, but every time I see them, they're getting shredded with a screen and cut to the basket. They must be better than I have seen, though, their defensive numbers are solid.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

A dirty little secret about Mike Rosario of Rutgers - he's in a major shooting slump. They run many plays for him, but they don't have a crisp passer or a guy to break down the defense; and he's not great at getting his own shot. But a pretty smart player. Additionally, he is terrible with the ball - he's a poor dribbler. Fellow guard Anthony Farmer suffered a wrist injury against Louisville on Wednesday, and his status is uncertain. Chandler and Coburn will handle the ball in his absence...

The forwards seem to be there more for decoration. Gregory Echenique has great touch around the basket, but is still a little raw and never sees the ball in the set half-court offense. And he gets doubled with no other post presence to help. N'Diaye is a defensive presence, mostly, whose shooting range is next to the cylinder. JR Inman isn't having a bad year, Earl Pettis gets some minutes... while Jaron Griffin no longer gets off the bench.

St. John's Red Storm

Meanwhile, St. John's hopes to get Rob Thomas back to play down low. And hopefully DJ Kennedy won't be assessed a game suspension for getting kicked out of the game with technical fouls. The Red Storm played 6 men along with 5 minutes of Dele Coker; Ty Edmondson's minutes would have gone to Kennedy if he were in the game. This iron man basketball is going to catch up with the Storm sooner or later, if it has not already.

Overall, the team played decently on offense, getting shots for Burrell and Evans and 20 points on 10 shots for Paris Horne. But the turnovers and extreme inability of any player to convert at the line took all the good away from the game. 5 turnovers from Quincy is terrible, but he's handling the ball. 5 turnovers from Burrell is unconscionable.

Five Points, or, Keys to the Game

Outside In. The Red Storm have to attack from the perimeter, where the guards are good at slowing down three-point shooters, but not as good at stopping slashing perimeter players. Kennedy's size should pose a problem for the Knights; and forcing the Rutgers forwards to move is a good play with the more mobile Burrell and Evans (and hopefully Thomas). St. John's has to make those perimeter players work, chase, and fight to stay with their men.

Clog the Lane. On defense, the Storm should dare Rutgers to hit from outside. That isn't to say leave them open, but to concentrate on defending within the three-point line and keeping passes from getting in to Echinique.

Speed and Jostle. This should be a physical, defensive game. And St. John's should look to press the issue, aggressively going to the rim on offense in transition before the shot blockers can set up shop. On defense, St. John's can pressure the weak Rutgers ballhandlers into mistakes. As long as those same backcourt players for St. John's don't cough up the ball themselves.

Bang Harder. Win the battle on the glass. No easy shots for Rutgers, and easy shots for St. John's.

The Basics. Play smart. Hit free throws. Play with confidence.