St. John's held on to finish Wagner on Friday night. Now the Red Storm will look to get a win streak going as UMBC pays a visit to Queens. This game is part of the campus site round of the Maui Invitational Tournament, though the tournament isn't affected by the campus-site warm-ups; either way the Johnnies will advance to Maui.
Who: St. John's Red Storm (1-0) vs University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers (0-1)
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
When: Monday, November 16th, 7:00 PM
TV: Fox Sports 1
Audio: 970 WYNM
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN for game updates
Last Meeting: In 2011 St. John's beat UMBC by a score of 82-59
Fun Fact: St. John's started to play basketball in 1907. UMBC as a school was not founded until 1966
The UMBC Retrievers enter Queens with a some momentum, coming off a game where they held a solid Wake Forest team in check. UMBC won four games last season, making them one of the worst squads in D-I. They entered the year losing to an ACC opponent by only five. The America East must be wary because the Retrievers may be turning a corner in the rebuilding process.
This year, the Retrievers return four starters from last season's team. Still, despite the morale boost early in the season, KenPom ranks UMBC at number 331. That means according to KenPom, they are one of the twenty worst teams in Division 1. St. John's is ranked 150 in the KenPom ratings.
Although the lowly KenPom rating, UMBC has the ability to make some noise. Last time out the Retrievers knocked down 9 three-point field goals. The Retrievers backcourt is very explosive. Against Wake Forest the backcourt got to the hole very often. Head coach Aki Thomas hopes the young, explosive backcourt - with sophomore returnees Jourdan Grant and Malcolm Brent - can carry this year's team.
Keys to Game
Here is what St. John's will have to do to beat UMBC.
Contain UMBC's backcourt: The Retrievers strength is their guards who can attack the basket and create open shots. If St. John's is going to win they must play strong defense. Against Wagner the St. John's defense got tighter late which helped them finish off the Seahawks. Chris Mullin must have the defense ready early, or else the UMBC backcourt could take a lead they don't look back from.
Frontcourt: Coming into the season it was evident that the Johnnies frontcourt would be a major issue. Losing star player Chris Obekpa, who transferred to UNLV, certainly did not help. St. John's was out-rebounded by Wagner and can not afford to keep losing battles down low. St. John's backcourt is not deep enough to win games alone, they need defensive production in the paint, and they need to rebound the basketball at a more efficient level.
Federico Mussini: The old saying is, "You can't fight fire with fire." In this case St. John's should bring their own fire in the backcourt to compete in the form of the skilled young guards. Federico Mussini is the scorer on this team. Against Wagner he scored 18 points including a clutch three-pointer to help extend the minuscule lead. Getting production from him, and hopefully more from Malik Ellison, who scored 7-points - along with scoring from senior transfers Durand Johnson and Ron Mvouika.
UMBC will come out and play spirited basketball early on in the game. It's unlikely that UMBC is ready to pull off the upset. The Retrievers are an up and coming team, but they probably don't have the talent to finish the young St. John's squad. But you never know; the Johnnies are young and are still working out turnover problems, and that's why they play the game.
Final Prediction: 79-71 St. John's