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St. John's vs DePaul pregame stat keys: turnovers, getting to the rim is key

John Alber

DePaul is 9-8 on the season. And they're DePaul, the team that has struggled mightily since Dave Leitao left, with only one winning season since 2005.

But they're a real threat. And with St. John's without D`Angelo Harrison - the Johnnies went 1-5 without Harrison last season, as noted in the Rumble game preview - the Red Storm are missing their leading scorer, one of only two players who averages double digits in points (JaKarr Sampson, at just under 12 points per game, is the other).

Watch the turnovers.

DePaul's defense is predicated on forcing turnovers with pressure in the halfcourt and in transition. They love a fast-paced game, and get the running game going with opponent mistakes. In three Big East games, they have forced turnovers on 20% of opponent possessions, best in the league. And their defense has been good enough to hang with Marquette, Creighton, and Georgetown for long stretches of court time.

St. John's was best breaking Villanova's three-quarter pressure with D`Angelo Harrison in the backcourt. Jamal Branch and Rysheed Jordan will likely play a lot of minutes. Both have to restrict their aggressive, adventurous passes - or dribble confidently through the defense before it can set up. (Pointer and Greene will also be under pressure.)

St. John's is one of the best teams in the country at protecting the bal. In Big East play, they have only committed turnovers on 13% of their possessions, best in the Big East.

Take advantage of holes.

St. John's is athletic, can finish, and they cannot settle for jump shots when given the opportunity to get to the rim. DePaul has allowed at least 24 foul shots in each of its Big East games. They have intimidating height in the paint with Sandi Marcius, Cleveland Melvin and Tommy Hamilton IV, but the Johnnies' ballhandlers - especially Phil Greene IV, JaKarr Sampson and Sir`Dominic Pointer - have to attack the rim.

St. John's is shooting 35% inside the arc in Big East play - against some imposing defenses, true, but the team has to find ways of scoring at the rim and drawing fouls, with or without Harrison, the team's best at drawing fouls.

Pressure them into jump shots.

The Blue Demons turn the ball over on almost 24% of their possessions, and are mediocre inside the arc, shooting 45.5% on two-pointers. St. John's has to pressure their dribbles, pressure their shots, and keep stars Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin from getting too many clear looks at the basket on drives.

Chris Obekpa's shot blocking will be helpful; but the defenders on the perimeter have to make sure Young, in particular, doesn't beat them with his hesitattion dribble and ability to get to the basket.

Watch the rebounds.

DePaul has attacked the rim on the offensive end, looking for second shots. They are fourth in the league in offensive rebounding, grabbing 32% of their misses. But they are weak on the defensive end, allowing about the same percetage of opponent offensive rebounds.

If the Red Storm need to get second chance points, Chris Obekpa has been the best on the offensive glass, grabbing just under 11% of St. John's misses. But on the other end, St. John's has allowed opponents to snag 37% of their own misses in three Big East games.

Stat note: Cleveland Melvin is 10/15 from beyond the three-point line in the last three games.