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Game 6: St. John's vs St. Francis Terriers

Tonight, the Red Storm welcome their cross-city Northeast Conference rival, the St. Francis (NY) Terriers. Led by former St. John's assistant Glenn Braica, the Terriers hope to surprise the Carnesecca Arena crowd with a late-evening road victory. The Terriers have some hope. Despite being picked 11th in the preseason by their peers, and despite being 0-3 on the season, the team did take Seton Hall to overtime in Newark before falling 75-71.

The Terriers will come in believing they can knock off the Red Storm. Meanwhile, the Johnnies come off of two hard-fought losses in the 2K Sports Classic against Arizona and Texas A&M. The team plays after a women's game at 7, an ESPN 3 doubleheader on STJ-TV. With freshman guard Phil Greene likely getting another start, the Red Storm look to get God`sgift back on track and dominate the smaller Terriers. 

How? What does St. John's need to look out for?

Read more, below the fold.

Mood music: Roy Ayers, We Live in Brooklyn, Baby (video, opens in new window. )
Tip Off: 9:00 PM, Eastern
Vs: St. Francis, NY Terriers (0-3)
Location: Carnesecca Arena, New York, NY
TV: ESPN3/ STJ-TV | Radio: Bloomberg Radio AM 1130, WSJU
Opposition blog/ message board

Storm Warnings/ Profile: St. Francis Terriers

St Francis logo

The Terriers have lost to Seton Hall, Lafayette of the Patriot League, and Hofstra. The Terriers have kept the scores close in each game, and remain a threat by limiting the other team's chances with defensive rebounding (clearing 76% of opponents' misses) and shooting solidly from the perimeter. Braica's team takes 40% of their shots from outside of the arc, and hit 35% of those attempts.

In what always looks like a misprint, 6'4 forward Travis Nichols has continued his strong finish to last season, leading the Terriers in scoring (17.3 ppg) and rebounds (8.7 rpg), handling his chances on the defensive glass especially well. He's been an efficient inside-outside scorer, hitting 8 of 13 from beyond the arc (61.5% shooting), leading the team.

Nichols has been the most efficient player by far. And the forwards - including junior Akeem Johnson and freshman Jalen Cannon - are undersized, but they battle for rebounds. Interestingly, the 6'8 players Matt Milk and Milos Trivic have seen little time; perhaps they aren't yet fitting with the run and shoot style the Terriers often employ.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team conspires to miss shots in volume. The Terrier point guards commit turnovers of wildness and sloppiness. The team tries to penetrate with the dribble and kick to their shooters. And as a result, the team takes a lot of jump shots and doesn't draw fouls... and the jump shooters are streaky. 

Still, St. John's zone defense can make streaky shooters look good. Coach Lavin stated that he planned to use some man defense to slow down their shooting. But this would be a fine game to develop the players' reaction to ball + player movement when in zone defense as well. The Terriers' style could click given space, and it could rain points down on the Johnnies in Carnesecca.

St. Francis: Strengths/ Weaknesses

Terriers Strength: Perimeter shooting. With Ben Mockford and Stefan Perunicic, the Terriers have a pair of deep threats who aren't afraid to shoot from outside. Mockford takes 75% of his shots from the perimeter; Perunicic takes 70% of his shots from outside. They may be shooting 29.6% and 31.6% respectively, but they are a constant threat spotting up on the perimeter and playing off of the quick point guards. St. John's will have to be aware of those two on the perimeter - especially in transition. They won't often waste possessions or time with their dribble.

Terriers Strength: Defensive rebounding. They're small, and yet the Terriers have held their own on the glass, especially on defense, as mentioned above.

Terriers Weakness: The two-headed point guard. Dre Calloway and Brent Jones are quick and they can make plays, combining for nearly 8 assists per game. But too often, they dribble into risky spaces on the floor or make errant passes while playing out of control. Even worse, with good options inside, they manage to take 26.7% of the shots when on the floor (Calloway) and 24.4% of the shots (Jones)... and have made 32.6% of their shots (including 1 out of 7 three-pointers). Harassment from Nurideen Lindsey and D`Angelo Harrison should force them into miscues.

Terriers Weakness: Foul-prone. Foul prone doesn't quite sum up the Terriers' ridiculous ability to put the other team on the line. They average 27 fouls per game, or send opponents to the line twice for every three field goal attempts (a 67.1% ft/fga rate). With St. John's ability to draw fouls (67.1% ft/fga rate), the Red Storm should have lots of time to practice their shooting from the line.

The Five Points a/k/a Keys to the Game

Get to the line/ score in transition. The Terriers are willing foulers, so expect to see a lot of Nurideen Lindsey working on his free throw stroke. The Terriers can run a little, with their small but quick lineup; but the Red Storm should be able to goad them into fouls.

Get the grizzly bear eating. Steve Lavin wants to get God`sgift Achiuwa going again after his lackluster performances against Arizona and Texas A&M. The Terriers will battle tenaciously, but Gift should have his chances to score and work against defensive double teams. And he'll be able to test his rebounding against the small but rec-league gritty St. Francis forwards.

Stifle the perimeter. The Terriers have capable shooters when given time in Mockford, Perunicic, and Johnson. But the Johnnies should be able to hold them down on defense. Expect to see some time from Malik Stith and Sir`Dominic Pointer if the Terriers shooting hands get a little warm.

Rebound the misses. Maurice Harkless and Achiuwa need to rebound the when the Terriers miss; giving a scrappy team second chance points can lead to tighter games than the Red Storm would like.

Find the rhythm. It wasn't just Achiuwa who struggled at times in the Coaches vs. Cancer games. Moe Harkless, Harrison, and Lindsey all need to find their scoring rhythm and put up some points. When they do, they will be dangerous. 

Prediction: The Terriers could be competitive, but a focused St. John's squad should take them out if they defend the perimeter well. Prediction is a 75-60 St. John's win.

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