The St. John's-Wisconsin season opener was highly anticipated for Steve Lavin's up-and-coming group. As St. John's watched the clock run out on its 86-75 loss to the Badgers on Friday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., it was just as disappointing.
It's a new chapter for St. John's, yet its season-opening loss to #20 Wisconsin exposed many of the Red Storm's deficiencies that limited them to a second round exit in the NIT a year ago. Sloppy offensive mistakes, poor perimeter shooting and even worse perimeter defense plagued St. John's in its first official outing of the 2013-14 campaign.
Josh Gasser, the Wisconsin junior guard who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, was the difference maker for the Badgers with 19 points. Sam Dekker (16 points), Ben Brust (15) , Duje Dukan (15) and Traevon Jackson (13) joined in double figures, adding up to a 86-point performance by a traditionally low-scoring team.
JaKarr Sampson was the brightest star for St. John's in the loss, scoring 21 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. D`Angelo Harrison, who scored a handful of his 27 points in the final minutes of the game, also contributed a solid performance.
St. John's first points of the 2013-14 season weren't scored until about three minutes into the game, when Orlando Sanchez hit a three from the right wing. After scoring each of the Red Storm's first five points, Sanchez committed his second foul a minute later and was sent to the bench.
Perimeter defense was an issue for St. John's in the team's first exhibition game against San Francisco State six days ago. Early on, the Badgers took advantage of the Johnnies' weakness of guarding the outside. They continued to expose St. John's from deep throughout the night, converting 11 of their 23 attempts from beyond the arc.
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan's squad also dominated the glass in the early going. In fact, Wisconsin was better than the Red Storm in virtually every facet in the first ten minutes, as they jumped out to a 14-point lead.
The Badgers' lead got to as large as 18 points in the later stages of the first half. The Johnnies closed the gap a bit with a 10-4 burst, but Wisconsin held a 35-23 advantage at the intermission, much in thanks to ten Red Storm turnovers.
Wisconsin continued to handle the Red Storm on the boards early on in the second frame. St. John's cut the lead to eight, but the Badgers always seemed to have an answer.
After a pair of JaKarr Sampson buckets pulled St. John's back to within seven, Bo Ryan drew up a perfect backdoor play out of a timeout to halt the Red Storm's momentum.
It became a bit of a pattern with St. John's chipping away simply before Wisconsin continually came back with the counter punch. Sam Dekker and Ben Brust each hit critical three-pointers to boost the Badgers' advantage back up to ten with about eight minutes remaining, and the Badgers never looked back.
Dekker, Brust and Gasser led a balanced attack for the Big Ten stalwart. Wisconsin has made the NCAA Tournament each year since 1999, and the three Badgers offensive weapons will be key in their expected run back to the Big Dance in March.
Freshman Rysheed Jordan scored his first collegiate point with a free throw at the 10:32 mark of the first half, and finished 6 points on just 2-9 shooting. Orlando Sanchez scored 5 points and Max Hooper was scoreless in their respective Johnnies debuts.
St. John's will be back in action next Friday, November 15th when they welcome Wagner to Carnesecca Arena.
More from Rumble In The Garden:
- Player preview: D`Angelo Harrison's redemption song
- Player preview: JaKarr Sampson's only pressure is his own
- Player preview: what does Orlando Sanchez bring to the Red Storm?
- Player preview: the game changer Chris Obekpa still has growth left in his game
- Player preview: Sir`Dominic Pointer aka CostCo looks to add an offensive aisle