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Game Preview: St. John's vs Creighton - how can the Johnnies stop the bleeding

The Johnnies look to open Big East play with a victory over the Creighton Bluejays

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St. John's is mired in the worst stretch of their season so far. Lately, St. John's has been pounded on by lesser opponents, one better opponent, and the warts, the need for development from the nearly brand-new team continues to be evident. This horrendous stretch includes a 22 point loss to Incarnate Word and a 9 point loss to NJIT, performances that leave the team and fans looking for answers. Head coach Chris Mullin insists he won't look back on their failures.

"No, I really don't look backwards," Mullin said. "We need to learn to bring it every night. It is part of this learning and building process, so the only way you can see the difference is to go through it."

Entering stiff Big East play the Johnnies certainly need to bring their best every night. If they come out and play flat, they will not be able to compete in their conference. Their first chance at righting the ship is Thursday against Creighton.

Game Info

Who: St. John's Red Storm (7-6) vs Creighton Bluejays (9-4)

Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY

When: Thursday, December 31st, 2:00 PM

TV: Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Go

Audio: 970 WNYM

Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates

Tickets: Tickets to the event can be found here

Last Meeting: Last season the Johnnies cruised by Creighton in New York, beating the Bluejays by a score of 84-66

Fun Fact: MLB Hall of Famer Bob Gibson is a graduate of Creighton University.

Creighton Quickies

Head Coach: Greg McDermott (6th season)

Assistant Coaches: Steve Merfeld, Preston Murphy, Steve Lutz, Darian DeVries

KenPom Ranking: 64

Leading Scorer: Maurice Watson Jr. (12.5 points per game)

Leading Rebounder: Geoff Groselle (7 rebounds per game)

Turnover Margin: +1.9

Team Free-Throw Percentage: 66%

St. John's Quickies

Head Coach: Chris Mullin (1st season)

Assistant Coaches: Barry Rohrssen, Matt Abdelmassih, Greg St. Jean

KenPom Ranking: 230

Leading Scorer: Federico Mussini (14 points per game)

Leading Rebounder: Yankuba Sima (7 rebounds per game)

Turnover Margin: -2.2

Team Free-Throw Percentage: 64%

Scouting Creighton

The Creighton Bluejays have a reputation as one of the most successful men's basketball programs across the nation. Creighton has made the postseason 17 out of their last 18 seasons. They have produced recent NBA level talent in Kyle Korver and Doug McDermott.

Last season the Bluejays struggled finishing off games. Ten of their losses last season were decided by five or fewer points. Four of those ten losses were against ranked opponents. Their season ended losing 60-55 to the Georgetown Hoyas in the Big East Tournament.

Even though Creighton lost four of five starters, the program has a more positive aroma swirling around campus. This season the Bluejays have a more diverse offense with a handful of capable scorers. As of December 28th, the Bluejays have averaged about 86 points per game, which is the seventh highest scoring average in the nation. Some impact players for Creighton include Cole Huff, Maurice Watson Jr., and Geoff Groselle.

Cole Huff is a 6-foot-8 forward who transferred from Nevada to Creighton. Last season Huff did play due to NCAA transfer rules. This season he is a vital aspect of the Bluejays game. Huff is averaging 11 points per contest shooting 46% from the field this season.

Maurice Watson Jr. is another vital player on this Creighton team. Watson is also a transfer - from Boston University, who had to sit out last season. This season he is Creighton's leading scorer averaging about 13 points, and shooting about 49% from the field. Creighton is a much better team when Watson is performing at his best. He is a guard that can drive the lane and dish to open shooters, or attack the basket forcefully. He averages about 6.5 assists per game. If Watson can get into the teeth of the defense and spread the ball, the Johnnies could be in for a long night.

Creighton's second highest scorer is sort of a surprise. Geoff Groselle is currently in his third season as a Bluejay. This season he is averaging about 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block per contest. Last season he only averaged 5 points and 2 rebounds per game. The year before that, he averaged 2 points and 1 rebound per game. Over his last two seasons he accumulated 22 total blocks, he already has 17 total blocks this season. His emergence has really helped Greg McDermott's team. Groselle has been able to take over as the main center for the Bluejays and he has done this by improving in all areas of his game, and shooting 70% from the field.

Keys to the Game

Getting Hot With Their Shot: St. John's needs to shoot the ball well if they want to defeat Creighton. Against tougher competition, St. John's does not have the talent to beat a team without getting hot from the field. This should not be an immense issue against Creighton because of the Bluejays poor defense. The Bluejays have allowed teams to shoot over 45% from the field in seven out of their first twelve games. If St. John's has multiple hot shooters, they may be able to hang around with Creighton.

Defense: Creighton teams are known for shooting exceptionally well from behind the arc. The Bluejays continue to shoot the three-ball with tremendous shooters such as Toby Hegner and Isaiah Zierden. Creighton will create open shoots by penetrating and kicking the ball out. If St. John's can stay in the passing lanes the Bluejays might not be able to score as much as usual.

Turnovers: St. John's has struggled protecting the ball all season. Creighton is not fully dependent on running in transition, but they have scored in transition more often than last season. Either way, limiting the chances for the high-powered Creighton offense is key for the Johnnies.

Prediction

St. John's is not ready to win a shootout. Being back at home will hopefully provide St. John's enough energy to at least keep the Bluejays close early. Creighton will prevail behind their explosive offense.

Final Prediction: 96-78 Creighton

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