The game where Justin Brownlee is the savior of the Red Storm
I. Recap | II. Late Game Lulls | III. Keys of the Game Recap | IV. News coverage
St. John's beat the Ball State Cardinals at around 4:15 Eastern time.
The St. John's fans are yawning. And not necessarily satisfied. The Red Storm seemed so in control in the first half, up 34-22. And that was after spotting Ball State 7 points, missing their first 8 field goals over the first 7 minutes. The shutout was broken by Sean Evans, who had to miss 3 free throws before hitting 1 and breaking the seal.
And then in the second half, Jesse Berry, rec-league center Malik Perry, and forward Jarrod Jones started hitting jump shots and layups. Later, I'll check the play-by-play data to see when Dele Coker came in, because it seems to correspond with the Cardinals' run. Coker had a nice little stretch in the first half running the floor and altering shots, but in the second half he seemed like the weak link on defense in the minute he played (team allowed 2 shots in the paint, both assisted; he also had a turnover).
Down the stretch, Justin Brownlee and DJ Kennedy made shots. For Brownlee, it was the continuation of his playmaking all game. But for DJ Kennedy, it seemed like one of the few times he tried to impose his will on the game. Against competition like this, Kennedy has to pace the team.
The Red Storm were far sharper in overtime. Justin Brownlee was everywhere, DJ Kennedy got his shot off, and Dwight Hardy hit his free throws. Interesting to see that Malik Stith played down the stretch in the second half and in overtime. I don't think there is a point guard controversy, necessarily; Steve Lavin obviously wants to see what he has in various players in game situations. And when the team can't score for stretches, the more offensively-minded guard is a better bet. Even when he doesn't shoot particularly well.
And Malik Boothe's last turnover was a handoff to the defense... that got him benched immediately.
II. Late Game Lulls
Dave from Johnny Jungle (and the announcers, who were terrible - they're Division II announcers for sure) pointed out that St. John's wasn't crisp for a bit of the second half. It almost seemed like they weren't playing hard.
The Lulls, the mid-game drought, happened from time to time last year even against teams the Red Storm should beat every day of the week. St. John's would face an overmatched opponent, not run their offense sharply, not play with enough intensity... and then they found themselves in a game they needed to pull out.
And again, tonight; it wasn't any one thing, though some defenders looked like weak links. It was just an inability to knock out the Cardinals. They run their offense very well. It's hard to believe they only shoot an effective field goal percentage of 44% coming into this game. And Ball State did the things they do - get to the line and protect the ball (turned the ball over 18% of their possessions - not great, but not terrible).
But St. John's didn't look sharp with the big lead; Jarrod Jones, Jesse Berry, and Randy Davis got shots off to inch closer and closer. And the Cardinals got confident. Meanwhile, the Red Storm could only get jump shots out of their offense when Justin Burrell wasn't dunking.
Missed free throws also hurt. There were chances to balloon the lead in the first half, or to just keep scoring in the second, and the team couldn't make those shots. Those shots are the difference between a 6 point win in regulation and overtime. Overall, they squad went 16-30 from the charity stripe... they were very giving to the Ball State hope fund.
On the plus side, it's great to see the assists from the struggling Dwight Hardy (2-8 FG, 9-12 FT, 5 assists) and Malik Stith, who got some run at the point guard slot (2 pts, 5 assists). Justin Burrell played solidly, with 6 rebounds and 6 points.
DJ Kennedy had 15 and went 3 for 3 on three-pointers.
Justin Brownlee had 20 points on 11 shots. Thanks to the STJ Basketball twitter, I can tell you that's Brownlee's career high in points. He added 8 rebounds (14.7% of available offensive rebounds and 21% of defensive boards) and 3 blocks to his performance - nicely done.
The Red Storm only had 8 turnovers.
III. Keys to the Game
Pregame notes, with original keys to the game and team pluses
Don't Let Them Get Confident. St. John's let them get close. True, the Cardinals executed well; but St. John's had chances to put the game more out of reach. Jesse Berry seemed to have his way with the defense, getting good looks all over the court. D
Defend the Paint. Ball State shot a solid 54% inside the arc. St. John's made the paint inhospitable for much of the game, but when they didn't, Ball State made their run and Jarrod Jones scored. Ball State made a number of mid-range jump shots, so the 2-point percentage isn't necessarily indicative of the Johnnies' defensive efforts. And the Cardinals only had 3 offensive rebounds. Still, the defense has to be better. B-
Hot Shots in Alaska. Ball and player movement at times seemed a little lacking, despite the lack of much zone from Ball State. But shooting 40% from the outside is pretty nice. I'll add the free throw shooting to this category. Even for this cohort of St. John's players, that was a poor performance. B
No Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Cardinals got to the free throw line 23 times, despite only taking 50 official shots. Late in the first half, their free throws kept them closer than they should have been, given how bad the Red Storm defense made them look. C-
Smart Play. Few turnovers - 8, or 11.4% of their possessions. Nicely done by the team. B+
(updated throughout the day)
Ball State Sports: Men's Hoops Falls To St. John's In Overtime In Alaska
Muncie Star-Press: BSU falls to St. John's in OT
Next up: Friday night, 9.30 Eastern time, against Drake in the semifinals of the Great Alaska Shootout.