The game where Columbia guards started to dream of knocking off a Big East team.
photo courtesy of Red Storm Sports
I. Recap | II. The Inside Stuff | III. Keys of the Game Recap | IV. News coverage
St. John's (1-1) defeated the Columbia Lions (1-2) 79-66 in a 63 possession game that seemed to play much more fast and loose for stretches. Both teams put up a lot of shots, thanks to the abundance of offensive rebounding (more on that below). The game had an open, "jack it up" feel, especially on the Columbia side. The Lions abused the Johnnies' zone looks and inability to mark the hot shooter, taking a 39-35 lead into the half in Steve Lavin's home opener at Carnesecca Arena in Queens.
A tough start, with both teams incapable of scoring inside the arc, shooting well outside the arc, and the Lions getting free for early looks. But St. John's stifled the Ivy League schools' outside looks and restricted the second chance opportunities, and pulled away for the win that looks better than it felt for the opening 30 minutes.
DJ Kennedy shined with his drives and tenacity on the offensive glass, filling the stat sheet with 18 points, 6 free throws attempted, 6 offensive rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists. Justin Brownlee had 15 points, Justin Burrell had 6 rebounds and played with energy as St. John's came back. Malik Stith showed a nice stroke and shot 3 of 4 from the three-point line.
For Columbia, Noruwa Agho continued to fill it up, scoring 18. Forward Brian Grimes had 14 rebounds (7 offensive), and Dyami Starks, a freshman from Minnesota who came in with a high-scoring reputation, dropped 15 points in 19 minutes (and on 8 shots).
II. The Inside Stuff
The interior play was uninspired for much of the game, and watching a Columbia team rip down rebounds and alter interior shots like that was not heartening. Granted, the Lions were playing a zone, have some height, and pattern themselves after St. Mary's, where Coach Kyle Smith was an assistant for years. Obviously, there is some knowledge passed to the Columbia team on how to defuse the Red Storm, an outfit that probably needs to run to be efficient at scoring the basketball.
When slowed down, the Red Storm shot 34.7% inside the arc; some of those misses were on the put-backs the players couldn't finish. That's a fairly low percentage, and something to watch from this team, especially when they play against the zone.
Besides dunking, I'm not sure that the forwards are comfortable creating in the post. The past three years have seen a guard-oriented scheme where forwards get their shots on offensive putbacks or dribbles, as opposed to their post moves... I will keep an eye on this.
Defensive rebounding was a real problem. Columbia got to 47.5% of their misses. That's a ridiculous number of second shots for a non-elite team against the Johnnies; St. John's has been a good defensive rebounding team. This seems to be the side effect of starting Brownlee and Dwayne Polee. Brownlee had good rebounding numbers last year, but hasn't shown the boxing out and the instincts that Sean Evans and Burrell have shown. Polee's lack of weight seems to make it hard for him to hold position, and his timing on jumps needs improvement. But Polee and Brownlee, so far, give the team more on the offensive side; where's the balance?
III. Keys to the Game
Pregame notes, with original keys to the game and team pluses
Bother The Early Shots. Well, that didn't work - at least not for the full game. Columbia's deep shooters had chances to take their shots in the first half, unbothered by the waving of hands or the bumping of bodies. The defense needs to improve. Credit to the team for leaving the open spots in the zone less open. C+
Score. On one hand, the shooting of the Red Storm from outside was really nice. They shot a very nice 43.5% from beyond the arc despite Dwight Hardy's continued shooting slump - he is 0-10 on the season. The team is shooting well from the outside without him, This, of course, will not continue against better opponents who can stifle the inside and the outside shots, as opposed to just packing in the interior. The 34.7% St. John's shot inside in the first half - which is 40% if you remove 3 of the 4 offensive rebounds St.John's tapped around in their opening possession - that was not very nice given what should be a talent differential. The Storm have to score inside of the zone. B
Force Turnovers. St. John's forced Columbia to turn the ball over at around the rate they do during the season (in the game, the Lions lost the ball on 23.7% of their possessions, averaging 21.8% during the year). Good, but given the lower-level opponents Columbia has faced, one would hope for a gaudier number. The turnovers may be more a factor of Columbia's sloppiness rather than the efforts of the Johnnies. B
No Second Chances. This will not stand. They have height and some strong men, but their best offensive rebounds during the game were 6'6" and 6'7"; St. John's has to outrebound guys like that, no matter how talented, if they want to win games. D
True King of the Jungle. It took the team awhile to get the crowd into it, and to dominate at home. The second half performance was solid, and maybe that was the effect of remembering they were at home, and should beat the Lions. The second half play was very solid. B+
Johnny Jungle: The Excellence of Execution
AP via CBS News: Lavin Wins First Game For Red Storm
Next up: The Great Alaska Shootout, starting on Thursday morning/ Wednesday evening at 1 AM Eastern time.