One thing St. John’s didn’t want to do Friday night against Monmouth was be forced to play the Hawks’ style of basketball.
Monmouth loves a fast pace, and they mostly played a speedy first half that saw them down only two points at halftime. But St. John’s slowed the game just enough in the second half to win their third straight game with a 64-54 decision at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s (3-1) not only overcame Monmouth’s pace, but also another area the Hawks excel at - the turnover game.
Monmouth forced St. John’s into 12 turnovers, but could only convert those mistakes into 12 points. St. John’s is one of the better teams in the nation at keeping the ball; their 9.75 turnovers per game average is tied for the 29th lowest with Old Dominion. For comparison’s sake, Louisville leads the nation at 6.25 per game.
Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that Rysheed Jordan was suspended for this game as a result of violating team rules. Before the game, The Rumble warned players such as Jordan who rely on their dribble to get open shots could have a hard time against Monmouth. Jamal Branch, another one of those players, only saw eight minutes of action but managed to turn it over once in that span.
Orlando Sanchez was the biggest culprit, finishing with three turnovers. But he had six assists, which was a career high in this his one and only season. Sanchez is a versatile player at 6-foot-9 and has looked to get his teammates involved more often than he seeks his own shot. It’s been some time since St. John’s has had a big man who can pass like Sanchez.
The Red Storm held Monmouth to 33.9% (20-for-59) from the field, which was the lowest of any opponent since St. John’s defeated UConn in Feb. 2012. So, why was this game so close at times?
Head coach Steve Lavin wasn’t happy with his team’s defense.
"I was not pleased with our effort on the defensive end of the floor. I felt that we were a step slow the entire night," Lavin said. "We have to do a better job of things we can control and I thought defensively we were awful tonight."
St. John’s did appear lazy at times in the first half. They looked great on some possessions, and then on their heels on others. D’Angelo Harrison had one particular sequence early when he had a very active defensive possession, and then was passive in transition on the next defensive possession that led to a fastbreak bucket for Monmouth.
The Red Storm still haven’t been able to put together a full game, but don’t tell that to Phil Greene IV.
For the second straight game, Greene carried this team when it needed it the most, especially after Harrison faced foul trouble yet again.
"Phil is capable of doing this every night. He's finally taking shots," Harrison said. "He can be very difficult to guard."
Greene’s true shooting percentage, which include free throws and 3-pointers, is at 68.9% for the season. He’s scored 17.1% of the team’s 280 points this season.
"The last two games for Phil have been impressive," Lavin said "He’s maneuvering at a speed where he is making excellent decisions."
More from Rumble In The Garden:
- St. John's vs Monmouth: photos and key quotes from the 64-54 victory
- St. John's vs. Monmouth final: Johnnies survive another close call, defeat Hawks 64-54
- Rysheed Jordan suspended for Friday's game vs. Monmouth
- St. John's vs Monmouth: watch for sloppiness (three stat keys)
- St. John's vs Monmouth game preview: Look for "aisle-by-aisle" contributions from Sir' Dom Pointer