The game where toughness, determination, and guard rebounding won the game.
I. Recap | II. vs. ASU's Pluses + Minuses | III. Keys of the Game Recap | IV. News coverage
Photos from the Anchorage Daily News
I'll admit it. I didn't stay up to watch the Great Alaska Shootout Championship against the Arizona State Sun Devils. I got myself a good night's sleep, had a little breakfast, and sat down to watch one of the more thrilling games I have seen or heard in a while from St. John's since last year's road win over Notre Dame or the Big East Tournament game over Connecticut. The Red Storm really struggled in the first half to get the ball inside. And they took the threes they wanted to... but they didn't go down.
The only really effective player in the first half was Justin Brownlee, solid on defense and getting his shots to fall. The team looked to Dwight Hardy, but Hardy still hadn't (and maybe hasn't) found a consistent stroke. The rest of the team's jump shots were long, short, right left - just off. But a good defensive effort to keep Rihards Kuksiks and Trent Lockett from getting shots up (as in the pregame notes) kept them in it. In fact, it was only the ridiculous shooting of Ty Abbott that had Arizona State up by 10.
And late in the first half and for much of the second, St. John's came with pressure. Unbelievable pressure. They bodied, fought, rebounded, pressed - and Arizona State folded a little at first.
And then the wheels came off under pressure of a 4 guard rotation of Hardy/ Paris Horne/ Malik Boothe/ Malik Stith with Justin Brownlee.
St. John's tied twice in the second half. The last tie came on a Stith steal and layup that came after Paris Horne's tip of a missed free throw. That play was indicative of Arizona State's late game - Jordan Bachynski was pushed aside by Horne on the block. Bachynski is 7'2". Paris is 6'3". What a discard!
And after the tying play, Arizona State struggled to get into their offense. Freshman Keala King had the ball poked away by Stith, who scored off of a layup. Nice defensive pressure all around.
St. John's shot 64% in the second half to take the title; Justin Brownlee was the Player of the Tournament. And the Johnnies now have a nice gold pan to use when they're checking rivers and creeks for gold.
The St. John's "Twitter guy", SID Mark Fratto, has given what I think is his first halftime interview for the Red Storm.
Roving reporter Erin Sharoni got some time with the bucket drummers in the stands.
All in all, it was a good time, like the band the Dismemberment Plan says.
II. Against Arizona State's Pluses/ Minuses
* vs. Slow and Controlled Play? St. John's attacked Arizona State's controlled play, forcing turnovers, hurrying them up, and making some poorer ballhandlers bring the ball up under pressure. Nicely done in the second half.
* vs. Screens to Shot Freedom? Kuksiks got his shots well off of screens, standing wide open in the corner... but he didn't get many. Meanwhile, Lockett found a defender around every screen ready to make him work for his shots. Very well done working around the ASU screens by St. John's, though Ty Abbott saw a little bit more daylight than anyone would have liked.
* did St. John's guards rebound? The Johnnies fought for long rebounds, sure, but the guards also snagged boards from Arizona State big men inside, which impressed me (and was not part of my tips for the Red Storm).
* did St. John's defend their perimeter players? The Sun Devils' guards had trouble creating shots in the second half against pressure. And they generally struggled to get good shots for their main weapons; having Ty Abbott carry the team was not the game plan.
III. Keys to the Game
Find Lockett and Kuksiks? Check. They got open a few times, but didn't dominate. Lockett had 9 shot attempts and scored 10 points; Kuksiks had 3 shot attempts, scored 8 points, and was defensively... well... not good. A-
Penetrate and Shoot. When St. John's fought for balls in the paint they scored; the outside jump shots against the zone didn't fall. They didn't penetrate and kick for open shots - they score off of deflections - so this was not a huge factor plus or minus. B
Go Even Harder. Wow. The last 20 minutes were worth towel waving for. That was going hard, and everything that that entails in the boxscore - forcing turnovers (on nearly 28% of the Sun Devils' possessions), minimizing the other team's shot attempts in the second half, stealing rebounds from big guys, drawing fouls (a rate of 51% of the team's shot attempts), and harassing, harassing, harassing. A+
Own the Glass. Arizona State did much better on the glass than I thought they would. Bachynski and Lockett were impressive at times. But when St. John's started to play, they spread out the rebounding among all the players, with everyone who played more than 5 minutes getting 3 or 4 rebounds each. A-
Free Throws. St. John's got to the free throw line, and in the second half, hit their free throws better than they did in the first. They need to be crisper with the free throw shooting, but the fact that they forced Lockett to the bench for stretches with 4 fouls, and fouled out forward Kyle Cain is significant. B+
or to quote the great and departed Bob Murphy, "the Happy Recap."
Red Storm Sports: St. John's Surges Past Arizona State, 67-58, To Win First Great Alaska Shootout Title
2010 Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout All-Tournament Team: Dwight Hardy, St. John's; Jarrod Jones, Ball State; D.J. Kennedy, St. John's; Damian Lillard, Weber State; Trent Lockett, Arizona State; Matt Massey, Southern Utah; Jamelle McMillan, Arizona State; Rayvonte Rice, Drake; Casey Robinson, Alaska Anchorage; Taylor Rohde, Alaska Anchorage. Most Outstanding Player: Justin Brownlee, St. John's.
Anchorage Daily News: St. John's storms to Shootout title, blowing past Arizona State
About a minute later, Stith fired a desperate 3-pointer as the shot-clock buzzer sounded, and it banked in off the glass to make it 58-53. The sequence was part of a whirlwind of hustle and athleticism that left the Sun Devils virtually paralyzed.
"The guys just took the ball right away from us," said Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek. "We needed to make better decisions in some cases."
Sendek said his team had never seen such defensive pressure and it rattled the Sun Devils.
Johnny Jungle: The Champs’ Frontier
Riding the momentum forged by their defense en route to nine second-half steals, the Johnnies picked up their first regular season tournament win since the 2005 Holiday Festival with a 67-58 win over the Sun Devils, sending ASU back to the valley of the sun empty-handed after Arizona State jumped out to a 30-20 halftime lead. After shooting just 26% from the field in the opening stanza, the Johnnies came out firing over the final twenty minutes, outscoring ASU 47-28.
...After not having their most effective outings since making the cross-country trip, Paris Horne and Malik Stith continued their solid and underrated play, (11 and 10 points, respectively) helping to not only tie the game midway through the second half, but also giving the Red Storm a lead it would never relinquish.
ESPN: Rapid Reaction: St. John's 67, Arizona St. 58
CRITICAL JUNCTURE: The biggest play of the game was actually a fluke -- St. John's had already taken back the lead, 55-53, but Arizona State will still very much in the game. The Red Storm had the ball, with just under four minutes to play and the shot clocking winding down, when Malik Stith was forced to heave a desperation 3 at the basket from the top of the key. The ball hit the backboard with a thud and went in, expanding the St. John's lead to five. Stith admitted after the game that he didn't call "glass."
AZ Central/ Doug Haller: Thoughts on ASU's loss to St. John's
State Press: Men’s hoops falters in Great Alaska Shootout championship
Next up: the Wagner Seahawks, at home in Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday evening, led by Dan Hurley.