On a wild, wild night in Queens, St. John's defeated DePaul 79-72. It was a fast game, a pressure game, and a game that won't go to most coaches' basketball archives.
Amir Garrett's career night paced the Red Storm. Garrett had 18 points on 4/6 shooting, 9 rebounds, and used his athleticism and hustle to beat DePaul to loose balls in the air and on the ground. His activity, hustle, pure speed, and primal screams broke down a weak DePaul defense.
"Earlier in the season, I was scared to take shots and scared to mess up," he said after the game.
Garrett looked composed and confident against the Blue Demons. Garrett - a 52% free throw shooter - received 11 foul shots for his activity, and made 9.
To Coach Mike Dunlap, the foul shots were a big part of the win. "We got chances to rest," he said about the free throw chances. "Every time they fouled, it was like a timeout."
Referee Karl Hess - who made news last weekend for kicking two fans out of an NC State game - seemed to add an extra time out when he went to the monitors to review some supposed altercation in the second half between Charles McKinney and D`Angelo Harrison (that seemed to be about McKinney stopping Harrison from tying his shoes).
He found nothing, but the players and referees got a breather.
D`Angelo Harrison drove inside to help the Johnnies rest. He drew 12 foul shots to go along with his 5/13 from the field to lead both teams with 23 points. He added 5 assists and 5 rebounds for the Red Storm, who are now winners of two straight. The Red Storm improve to 12-16, 5-10 in the Big East. (And they are in 11th place in the conference.) The tough Notre Dame Fighting Irish are next on Saturday, in Madison Square Garden.
For DePaul, it was another game that they came so close to winning, but couldn't close out. Cleveland Melvin had 18 points and 15 total rebounds, and was helped by Brandon Young's 17 points and Jamee Crockett's 15. DePaul falls to 11-16, 2-13 in the league. They face Providence next, in Chicago.
Quick and hurried. John Wooden was famous for the phrase "be quick, but don't hurry."
Tonight's game was quick... and hurried. Which may have been DePaul's plan. In the first meeting, the Red Storm looked winded - and admitted to as much after the game.
Tonight, the Blue Demons looked for their offense early, taking jump shots in transition when open. The Blue Demons drew their first free throw with 6:00 left in the first half. The Demons also took half of their shots from outside the arc... and shot 6/31, 19%.
The plan may have been to tire out the Red Storm. But for the Johnnies, suffering a long season of hard lessons, this was the kind of unstructured game that they could excel in for stretches. The Blue Demons turned the ball over on 25% of their possessions. The downsides of that pace... we'll take that on a little later.
Open game means open rebounds. All those long, wild shots meant that the Red Storm's long athletes could compete for loose balls in space instead of battling bigger forwards for rebounds. Hence, Amir Garrett's career-high in rebounding. Maurice Harkless had 10 rebounds himself (to go with 14 points).
The wild play led to 10 steals by the Johnnies (18 turnovers in total for visiting DePaul). And the urge to take shots quickly led to Crockett's 1/11 night from beyond the arc, and Jeremiah Kelly and Brandon Young's twin 2/7 nights.
Ball protection was good. St. John's shot well and protected the ball; the Red Storm had 11 turnovers despite shifting waves of DePaul pressure. And in a game of this pace - 73 possessions - that turnover percentage of 15% is a gorgeous number. More on the pace, the stars of the game and more, below the fold.
Well, ball protection was mostly good. The turnovers that the Red Storm had were certainly preventable. Sir`Dominic Pointer's handle looked fast and loose. Moe Harkless threw a ball right into a DePaul defender. When he had the ball in transition, he had the handle of a player who was unsure, only dribbling because he had to. The whole team needs to tighten their handles.
Open game means he who dribbles, shoots. In the first half, St. John's enjoyed a solid 18-10 lead. But Moe Harkless didn't get many touches, with the speed of the game and the openings in the defense. St. John's has to feed their talented forward, use his craftiness and skills to control the game especially when the other team wants a wild pace.