As frustrating as Friday's loss against the Georgetown Hoyas was - and it was frustrating for both sides - it's time to move on to the next game against the Providence Friars. The black cowled school's basketball team had fine year last year, and are introducing a whole new lineup - there are 4 returnees (3 if you don't include Jamine Peterson, who redshirted last year).
That's a lot of bodies to integrate and it shows.
As a result, there's little relation to last year's pathetic game, which featured poor shooting on the outside, questionable ball handling and movement, and a guy named Hanke - normally a hit and miss producer on the court - going for a season high (17) in points.
It's almost like St. John's had no idea how to defend very large men who understand to run to the basket. That 75-54 beating featured a lot of turnovers, a lot of missed shots, and in no way gave an indication that the same Johnnies would knock off #7/10 Notre Dame at Madison Square. Goes to show you never can tell. More on the Friars below...
The Friars have been simply bad on defense, while putting up serious numbers on the scoreboard. They run, run, and run some more, and have been excellent at not turning the ball over. They also pick up offensive rebounds - mostly on the strength of Jamine "Greedy" Peterson's excellent offensive board work. Guess that's where he got the nickname. But with all of those offensive rebounds, shot attempts, and non-turnovers, they are not the most efficient scorers. They're not terrible, but there are stretches of missed shots, especially from beyond the arc.
The defense... well, they're not indifferent, exactly, but they're out of position a lot defending the drive. Against the Fighting Irish, the Friars allowed open looks from the corner... repeatedly. The Friars do not force turnovers, and they are not great at cleaning their defensive glass. There will be second chance opportunities.
St. John's has improved since last year with respect to scoring and turning over the ball. Having multiple ballhandlers, a 3-point shooter from junior college, and the emergence of DJ Kennedy as a playmaker has helped. Some of the starters have lost confidence or effectiveness; Sean Evans isn't scoring at last year's efficiency, Paris Horne has struggled with his shot, and Malik Boothe's passing has not led to assisted shots.
On defense, there are some holes, especially when the forwards come out to slow the progress of a perimeter ballhandler, but the team has managed to put together enough defense to win 10 games and suppress interior scoring. They could be better, but they have certainly been worse.
St. John's should enter this game as a favorite. But make no mistake about it - this Friar team has ability to score from all over the floor (in stretches). The Red Storm will need to defend and make the most of their scoring opportunities. Providence gives St. John's a chance to get the home crowd rocking with a Sunday afternoon win at Carnesecca. It's early in the Big East season, but the Red Storm have to win games like these to be taken seriously nationally.
4 PG Sharaud Curry SR 5'10 170: 13.8 ppg* 4 apg* 1.2 spg
2 G/F Marshon Brooks JR 6'5 190: 15.2 ppg* 4.5 rpg* 2.1 apg* 1.5 spg* 39.6% 3PT
23 G Brian McKenzie JR 6'4 205: 7.4 ppg* 4.6 rpg* 36% 3PT
21 F Jamine "Greedy" Peterson SO 6'6 230: 18.3 ppg* 10.8 rpg* 1.4 spg* 45% FG
42 F/C Bilal Dixon FR 6'8 228: 8.9 ppg* 6.4 rpg* 2.2 bpg* 58% FG
32 PG Vincent Council FR 6'2 180: 23.5 mpg* 7.7 ppg* 3.4 rpg* 3.2 apg* 47.4% 3PT
5 G/F Kyle Wright JR 6'6 215: 12.7 mpg* 4.7 ppg* 2.4 rpg* 40.6% 3PT
1 G Duke Mondy FR 6'3 196: 11.5 mpg* 3.2 ppg* 2.5 rpg
44 F Russ Permenter JR 6'9 230: 8.5 mpg* 2.2 ppg* 2.1 rpg* .9 bpg
From the Friarblog:
Seven players saw their first BIG EAST action this past Wednesday at Notre Dame -- that alone is enough to tell you that this Providence team is young and is going to have their ups and downs this season.
The biggest problem Providence has faced this year (and it feels like for the last 5 years) has been defense. It's all about trying to find a good balance of defending the perimeter (a huge problem last year) and stopping opponents' inside game. With inexperience and a lack of depth (and size!) inside, the Friars have had tons of trouble with the latter. Playing uptempo games, they have not forced as many TO as they would prefer, and the press often leads to easy buckets.
The Friars have some good options offensively, but have recently been plagued with poor shot selection leading to bad stretches of play. Quite simply, the shots have to be falling from the perimeter for PC to be successful. 5th year senior Sharaud Curry seems to have regressed. His shooting has been generally terrible, but he is capable of great offensive performances. Marshon Brooks started off great, but he hasn't been the same since getting the flu last month. Bilal Dixon has been really good inside, but foul trouble often keeps him out of games. The most consistent Friar has been Jamine "Greedy" Peterson, who just just keeps putting up great scoring and rebounding numbers. Freshman PG Vincent Council had a rough start to his BE career, but has looked great otherwise.
St. John’s (10-3)
3 PG Malik Boothe JR 5’9 188: 5.3 ppg* 2.5 rpg* 2.2 apg* 1.1 spg
23 G Paris Horne JR 6’3 191: 8.6 ppg* 3.1 rpg* 1.4 apg* 1.1 spg* 37.3% 3PT
1 G-F DJ Kennedy JR 6’5 215: 16.2 ppg* 6.3 rpg* 3.5 apg* 37% 3PT
24 F Justin Burrell JR 6’8 235: 5.4 ppg* 3.1 rpg* 57.6% FG
5 F Sean Evans JR 6’8 255: 7.6 ppg* 6.8 rpg
12 G Dwight Hardy JR 6'2 187: 23.1 mpg* 11.8 ppg* 42.3% 3PT
32 F Justin Brownlee JR 6'7 232: 22 mpg* 8.1 ppg* 6.1 rpg* 1.2 spg* 1.1 bpg
15 F-C Dele Coker JR 6’10 252: 11.4 mpg* 2.4 ppg* 2.5 rpg* 1.6 bpg* 70% FG
St. John's has been solid on both sides of the ball, despite leaving some exploitable gaps in their defense and not generating a lot of turnovers with their token pressure. They have been a bit reliant on outside shooting, and haven't had a steady post presence. Sean Evans leaves half of his "free" points off the scoreboard, but worked the glass better against the Hoyas. The return of Justin Burrell against Georgetown brought in a better post defender and a player; and he got offensive opportunities - even passes into the post - and did fairly well with those. Justin Brownlee had a nice streak of plays against the Hoyas, but some bad ideas as well... he needs to drive and dunk more often. Dele Coker has improved as a defender and provides valuable minutes.
The team isn't drawing fouls is because the eager shooters all take a large number of 3-point jump shots. Granted, they're not bad at hitting those shots, and the team is turning the ball over less, but some more player movement as a team would be helpful for when those shots aren't falling. So far, DJ Kennedy has been solid from all over the court. Dwight Hardy has been a player, driving more than one would think for a baller advertised as a 3-point shooter. Paris Horne is getting his confidence back in his shot. And Anthony Mason practiced and warmed up for the Hoya game... his return will make the Red Storm a much more dangerous team offensively and perhaps defensively.
Boothe has been the team's most capable ballhandler, though Stith has better per-minute assist rates and turnover rates. Malik Boothe hurt his groin during the Hoya game... no word on whether he will be ok to play on Sunday.
Keys to the Game:
Defend the Glass. The Friars get a number of second chance opportunities. Those need to be minimized; and St. John's has to get second chance points themselves. The Red Storm's size and hustle inside make this an aspect of the game where they can really shine and make a difference against the Friars.
Run Intelligently. The Friars will run; the Johnnies like to run as well. But at times, they will need to slow the Friars down, control the pace, and set up their defense. Additionally, the team has to take advantage of the fast break opportunities - scoring without turning the ball over.
More Kennedy + Burrell. This team cannot depend on Dwight Hardy and Paris Horne's shooting; they need interior scoring. That can be provided by getting opportunities to Justin Burrell - the best interior scorer (who can make plays as well), and DJ Kennedy, the team's best all around player.
Make Defensive Plays. Get stops. That's all there is to it. Cover the deep shooters. Don't let the Friars get easy shots inside.
Make Shots. From the free throw line, or from behind the arc, St. John's need to make shots for this not to turn into an upset.