After falling at home to #8 Villanova, 90-72, the #24 St. John's Red Storm have now opened Big East play with three consecutive losses for the second straight year.
Madison Square Garden was abuzz on a snowy Tuesday evening in New York City, and the Johnnies came out feeding off that energy. They'd take a lead into halftime, but would eventually be swallowed whole both by the depth and size of Villanova, and by their own lack of depth and size.
Get on the boards, boys
The Wildcats would nearly double up the Red Storm on the glass. Snagging just 21 rebounds as a team the entire night, Daniel Ochefu and Dylan Ennis of Villanova would outrebound (22) the whole Johnnies roster (21).
It's not as if the team didn't know this was an issue. "We got outrebounded by 20," said D'Angelo Harrison after the game, "Coach stressed we had to get some boards, but they got a lot of tip-outs and hit some big shots...it's stuff we can control."
Part of the reason the team struggled so mightily on the glass was obviously their major size disadvantage. Outside of center Chris Obekpa, the team doesn't have a true inside presence that can clean up the boards. Not only would Obekpa be in constant foul trouble from the game's opening minute when he picked up his first foul, but he'd also hobble off in the second half with some type of leg injury after he was landed on by Phil Booth following a score.
Sir'Dominic Pointer fouling out with 7:47 remaining in the contest only exacerbated the lack of size on the interior. Following the game, Coach Lavin shared some of what he said to Sir'Dominic during the contest, "We don't want you to lose your aggressiveness, but you have to pick your spots. But you have to understand time and score, and where we are in a particular game and the opponent we're playing, and be aggressive, but also use good judgment." Pointer would lead the team in blocks with four, but they would all come in the game's first eight minutes.
Welcome back, Rysheed
In his first game back from his sabbatical, the much speculated about Rysheed Jordan would go 0-for-6 from the field, along with turning the ball over three times. He would play 26 minutes (mainly due to the fact that the Red Storm only play six consistently, and when Pointer fouled out, and Obekpa was in foul trouble, he simply had to play) and collect only one rebound and one steal, while hitting his only two free throws.
It was obviously an emotional week for Jordan, and Coach Lavin said as much after the game, "He had a really good practice yesterday, but it's tough to step into this level of competition against a quality team like Villanova when you've had a disjointed week."
The seemingly mercurial Jordan has suddenly become the team's x-factor if for no other reason than depth. If the Johnnies are to be any kind of competitive during Big East play, they'll need more than five players on the roster who can contribute.
Coming off their first loss of the season against Seton Hall on Friday, the Wildcats came out like a burning house of fire against the Red Storm. They'd shoot an obscene 20-for-29 (69%) from the field in the second half, scoring 56 points in the second frame alone. After the game, Coach Jay Wright was asked if he had ever been apart of a game where his team scored that many points in a half, "Wow, I see that now; I don't think so," he would continue on to say, "Also, once they started pressing, that opened it up a bit for us. We could not hold the ball against them-they're [St. John's] too quick and aggressive defensively."
Leading the charge for the Wildcats was senior guard Darrun Hilliard II. After scoring just four points in the first half, he'd pour in 17 in the second half. According to Coach Wright, "He used his size to start getting some better looks in the second half."
As a group, the ‘Nova onslaught was furious. Eight different players would score at least six points, with huge nights from all five of their starters. Forward Daniel Ochefu would post the only double-double of the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds, guard Ryan Arcidiacono would score nine points and drop 10 assists, guard Dylan Ennis would score furiously early on, finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds, and the aforementioned Hilliard would lead the charge with 21 points.
Although ‘Nova would turn the ball over three more times (13) than the Red Storm (10), they'd blow their doors off in terms of assists. On 34 of their made baskets, the Wildcats assisted on 22. For the Johnnies, it would be just eight on 26 made buckets.
If there is a silver lining in all this for the Red Storm, it's that they, A.) Have time to regroup, and B.) Face competition that isn't hovering around the top 25.
Their next contest comes on Wed., Jan. 14, against the Providence Friars (12-4, 2-1) from the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. Following that, they'll have matchups with DePaul and Marquette, and while anything can happen, having those three teams in a row before Duke may serve to be beneficial.