We know it was shocking watching St. John's, a team that has NCAA Tournament aspirations, struggle to defeat San Francisco State in an exhibition game.
Shocking not just because of the struggles and result, but because the Red Storm looked like only a few players came to play.
Shocking because the team got early practices in the summer and games against solid European opponents.
For St. John's fans, fingers need to step away from the panic button. A number of teams (Oregon, for one) struggled with their preseason match ups this weekend. Playing high-level basketball doesn't come easy; basketball is an egalitarian game where a solid team with a little skill call pull off an upset over a sloppy or careless or distracted team.
"Clearly there are a number of aspects, both offensively and defensively, that we have to clean up," Steve Lavin said, measuring his concern.
"We credit San Francisco for playing a tough game," D`Angelo Harrison
It wasn't the opening game the Red Storm were hoping for, but there were some upsides... and some familiar issues. Luckily, the second exhibition game is just a day away, on Monday evening against Humboldt State.
Overall, the Johnnies played a fast game (80 possessions), running the court for shots with their superior athleticism. This meant the team was able to get in place for faster shots... but much like last year, most of those shots weren't at the rim.
The Johnnies took 43% of their shots away from the rim, unable to beat San Francisco State's diligent defense. In stretches, the Johnnies newfound shooting touch made that moot. The team got to the line 31 times, shooting 73% and hit 32% of their threes. (Both are marked improvements from last year's 64% on free throws and 27% on threes.)
But with the exception of more threes taken (30% of their shots yesterday), the offense looked much the same, with an uneven distribution of mid-range/ pull-up jump shots.
And the Johnnies turned the ball over on an uncharacteristic 23% of possessions; SF State scored 25 points off of St. John's turnovers and scored 34 points in the paint. Some trailing-defender blocks by Orlando Sanchez and Phil Greene helped keep that number down by a few points, or else we might be talking about the Red Storm's loss to SF State.
San Francisco State shot 56% from outside the arc during the game, 50% inside the arc... and despite what it looked like, it wasn't that the game plan was to take half of their shots from beyond the arc.
The Gators only shot 26% of their shots from deep, preferring to drive on the Red Storm guards, occasionally working the ball inside, and taking advantage of holes in the extended man defense the Johnnies hoped would help them dominate the game.
St. John's did create turnovers on 27% of the Gators' possessions - their collapsing defense made the paint area dangerous for San Francisco State's driving guards.
"We played horrible defense tonight and they go too many easy, open shots," Sir`Dominic Pointer
Better games are ahead.
Playing with jump shots - the junk food of basketball offense - is playing with fire. And the Johnnies went cold for stretches, ending up with an offensive efficiency just over 1 point per possession.
Offensive rebounding helped save the team - 18 offensive boards (42% of available rebounds) gave the team a few more chances to take out the Division II Gators. The defensive rebounding wasn't dominant, but had its moments.
Starters/ Individual efforts
STARTING FIVE--> Jamal Branch/ Rysheed Jordan/ D`Angelo Harrison/ JaKarr Sampson/ Orlando Sanchez.
D`Angelo Harrison was crisp in his return to the court, scoring 13 in the first half and 29 points overall. Mostly playing within the offense, Harrison looked like the star scorer the Johnnies remember.
Rysheed Jordan (16 points), was an efficient 6/7 for the game - 4/5 in the first half - playing under control, showing solid vision (though some of his skip passes had a lot of arc) and looking for his shot when the Johnnies were in trouble. With 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and three assists, he filled up the stat sheet almost as much as....
Orlando Sanchez - who scored 9 points on 2/8 shooting, hitting a three and 4/7 from the free throw line, while adding 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocked shots.
D`Angelo Harrison's 29 points in 34 minutes, getting into the lane, scoring on pull-ups and hitting 3/6 from outside the arc.
The bench was short for the Johnnies, with Sir`Dominic Pointer playing 30 minutes (11 points, 6 total rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks, and an assist), God`sgift Achiuwa logging 20 (8 points, 9 total rebounds), and Phil Greene IV providing a spark in 18 minutes (6 points, 3 assists).
Max Hooper (6 minutes) and Jamal Branch (7 minutes) were quiet. Hooper took two threes, missing both.
Jamal Branch picked up his third foul early in the second half. He was active early, taking a shot at the end of the shot clock when no one else could find a shot and trying a jumper, but also passed from his backside in the middle of a scramble to the other team.
JaKarr Sampson's only made shot was a three-pointer. He looked to have solid balance on his make, though the form looked different on at least one of the other misses. One of the knocks on Sampson's game from NBA scouts was that at his size, he needed to prove that he could shoot from some kind of range consistently. Making the three was great, but Sampson couldn't find his way inside to get shots at the rim, where his bounce and athleticism should make him an extreme challenge to stop.
Marc-Antoine Bourgault, Felix Balamou, and Christian Jones did not play.