Last night's win was no thing of beauty in the first half. But the second half was filled with strong aggressive play, and the athleticism that spurred recruiting analysts to call the Red Storm class one of the best in the nation. It's early still, but we're learning a lot about how this team will have to perform to win games - a lot of running, few mistakes, and some offensive rebounding sprinkled in.
The second half defensive effort helped keep the ball out of Quinn McDowell's (20 points on 13 shots, 2 offensive rebounds, 8 defensive, 1 assist) scoring hands, and forced hurried shots from Brandon Britt (2-8, 5 points) and Julian Boatner (4-12, 12 points). And an atrocious performance from freshman Marcus Thornton.
Five Points/ Keys of the Game recap
Force turnovers. A+ St. John's forced turnovers on over 32% of William and Mary's possessions. The 3/4 diamond press was humming in the second half, speeding up the Tribe's passes and making them give up the ball earlier than they had in the first half. The turnover number was helped by a terrible inaugural performance from Tribe freshman Marcus Thornton; he had more turnovers than shot attempts, with quite a few coming on ill-fated drives to the basket.
Score in transition. A- In the second half, the game turned into a running contest. And that was good for Nurideen Lindsey (19 points). The first half saw Lindsey making his plays away from the basket, which isn't a strength yet - he hit one jump shot, missed four others, including two three-pointers; he had two assists as well.
In the second half, the press (and his hustle) generated opportunities. Lindsey had 2 assists, 3 fouls, and got seven shots (14 points), all deep inside the paint - layups or dunks. He drew foul shots... and went 3 of 8 from the line (which needs to change). Maurice Harkless and God`sgift Achiuwa were threatening in transition as well, but 2nd half Nuri was the key to last night's game.
Disrupt the passing. B+ The press did its job (see: turnovers, above) in the second half. Still, the ball found its way to many open shooters in the first half. If the Tribe weren't shook, they could have had a bigger lead - they only shot 7 for 21 (33.3%) from outside the arc in the first period. Sir`Dominic Pointer was a real defensive menace at points.
Rebound the misses. B In one tip drill sequence in the first half, Moe Harkless got 3 of his 4 offensive rebounds. God's Gift got up in the paint as well. As a team, though, the Johnnies didn't crash the glass that well, only grabbing 23.7% of their misses. William and Mary was a good defensive rebounding team last year, so it may be their skill... or a warning that the Red Storm aren't able to get offensive putbacks, even with yeoman efforts from Gift and Harkless.
Stay cool. A- The Tribe came out with some hot shooting, and the Red Storm fought, clawed, and gritted their way until the second half, when they unleashed the beast. Good job by the players in knowing what to do and staying in character. The team came out a little sluggish in the first half, and that has to improve.
Additional stat insights - a game of Fours?
- #4 on the floor, Moe Harkless, is really showing a lot on the floor in the early going - 4 assists, 4 offensive rebounds, a block, and he's taking a star's percentage of possessions (25.6% against William and Mary). He's scoring, even if his jump shots aren't falling like rain yet. And he's battling in the post, using his quickness and hops to get to balls against bigger, burlier competition.
- The Red Storm ended the game with 4 turnovers and only gave up 4 free throws. Those are incredible numbers, but need to be taken with a few grains of salt. The Tribe weren't trying very hard to force turnovers (unlike the Johnnies, who went to take charges all over the floor), and they also didn't look to drive to the hoop. At all. The Red Storm's defensive athleticism may have altered the Tribe's proclivities, but not every team will be as willing to lay back and bomb from the outside.
- That said, the matchup zone does goad teams into taking shots from the perimeter. William and Mary took 67% of their shots from outside the arc (as John at Rush the Court pointed out as well). The holes are there for opponents. But most teams aren't skilled enough to take advantage, especially with the Red Storm's defensive length.