St. John's fell to the Providence Friars on the road 83-65 Saturday afternoon. The Red Storm are next in action Wednesday night at home against Xavier at 9:15PM. Here are three takeaways from Saturday's loss.
Most notably, Federico Mussini only played 16 minutes in this game. He barely saw action in the second half even when the team was hanging around and was within single digits of Providence. The freshman from Italy finished the game with 3 points on 1-3 shooting with 1 assist and 2 turnovers. Mussini was stripped by Kris Dunn from behind that led to an easy dunk assisted by Dunn in the first half. This sequence basically ended Mussini's day. As stated above, he didn't see the court until late in the second half.
This is a cliche, but St. John's is a young team and needed to gain experience this year. The benching of Mussini is interesting because he was not able to gain experience against a potential number one overall pick in the NBA draft this June. Mussini, theoretically, would have benefitted from playing against Kris Dunn even if he struggled because he will be better prepared for future games with other top guards in the Big East.
Then again, it's important for a coach to use the bench as a tool, for a player to watch and learn how to improve, to observe the game as the coach does.
With Mussini playing limited minutes, Chris Mullin had to depend on other players not usually known for scoring to to step up, and they did. The Johnnies led the Friars 18-11 with 13:03 to play in the first half. Ed Cooley's team then finished the half with a 12 point lead 43-31. However, St. John's did make a run in the second half.
Yankuba Sima led the way for the team with 14 points. The next two leading scorers for the Red Storm were Felix Balamou and Amar Alibegovic - two surprising names in the scoring column. Alibegovic was held scoreless on Thursday afternoon against Creighton in eight minutes, and is averaging 4.4 points per game.
Durand Johnson scored 8 points and Christian Jones and Kassoum Yakwe each scored 7 points for the Johnnies. Chris Mullin and his team should be encouraged because they battled the #12 ranked team in the country tough without any contribution from their leading scorer. They were down six points with 9:32 left in the game, but that was as close as they would get.
St. John's did a pretty good job up until Providence's run to end the first half. The Red Storm allowed the Friars to shoot 46.7% from three point range in the first half. The Johnnies also gave up double digit scoring to four players. They gave up 26, 20, 13, and 11 to Kris Dunn, Ben Bentil, Rodney Bullock, Kyron Cartwright respectively.
The Johnnies also fouled too often. They gave up 11 free throws in the first half and 21 in the second half and committed 26 fouls for the game. St. John's was lucky that Providence only converted 6 free throws in the first half because that could have given more of a cushion for Providence.
St. John's has to do a better job of limiting the chances of premier players by changing defenses and they need to defend without fouling by giving up free throws.