St. John’s stumbled out of November, dropping a home contest to Delaware State as their concluding act.
Fortunately, the bleeding was cut-off with a resounding victory at Tulane.
Directly following their trip to New Orleans, St. John’s returns home for a battle with Cal State Northridge.
As we have seen so far in non-conference play, the Big East is incredibly strong from top to bottom - excluding DePaul. St. John’s will have their hands full come conference play, that is why it is so critical they pick up winnable games like the one presented Monday night.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (3-5) versus Cal State Northridge Matadors (3-5)
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Go
Audio: St. John’s TV All-Access will provide free audio for the contest. That station can be found by clicking here. Also live game audio can be found on 970 WNYM.
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates.
Tickets: Get-in price for Monday’s contest is set at $3. Purchase those seats by clicking here.
Fun Fact: Actress Eva Longoria attended California State University, Northridge.
Scouting the Matadors
Cal State Northridge, despite their losing record, has begun this season adequately. Four of their five losses have come against KenPom top 100 teams. Granted they have lost those all five of those games by 15 or more points, Cal State Northridge isn’t as bad as their results state.
Former NBA All-Star and Cal State Northridge coach Reggie Theus has struggled to build up the Matadors defense. Opposing offenses have exploded against Cal State Northridge’s man defense. Coach Theus’ club has unsuccessfully defended the three-point shot this season, while at the same time failed to create many turnovers.
These Matadors pride themselves offensively. They do a nice job converting on three-point attempts and free-throw opportunities. Unfortunately for Cal State Northridge, they have coughed up the basketball too many times this year. They average almost 16 turnovers per contest. Another reoccurring struggle has been the fact many of their shots have been blocked.
One preeminent contributor on this Matadors club is forward Tavrion Dawson. This junior is currently averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds per game, while shooting 58% from the field. In addition, Dawson is currently shooting 46% from three, and 87% from the charity stripe. Neutralizing Dawson should be a priority for St. John’s.
Another significant member within Cal State Northridge’s rotation is Kendall Smith. As a redshirt junior, Smith has averaged 15 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. He has shot 42% from the field, 36% from three, and 84% from the free-throw line.
The x-factor on this Matadors team has been big man Rakim Lubin. This former UConn Husky has made his impact this year with the Matadors. Through eight games, he has averaged just about 9 points and 6 rebounds per game. Lubin is an imposing force down on the low block. Nicknamed “Rock”, Lubin uses all 257 pounds to back opposing defenders down and hold his ground defensively. It should be interesting to see how St. John’s handles Lubin on both ends of the court.
Keys to contest
Three’s company: Last time out against Tulane, St. John’s did a superb job knocking down three-point shots. The Johnnies tied a school record for three-point shots made, converting 16 times from behind the arc. Overall, they shot 64% from downtown en route to a landslide victory over the Green Wave.
"You know it's not going to last and you're also thinking, we need to get some layups and two's because you can't live like that,” coach Chris Mullin said when asked about his team’s hot start from deep. “I try to teach them that those three point shots are a great weapon if they are created the right way."
While St. John’s doesn’t want to live and die by the three-pointer, they still want to exploit an area they have succeeded in recently. Most importantly, Cal State Northridge has done a dreadful job defending the arc. Add both those factors together and St. John’s is golden.
Create Turnovers: Another Matador weakness besides three-point defense, is their inability to hang onto the basketball. As mentioned elsewhere, Cal State Northridge turns the ball over an average of 16 times per game.
St. John’s on the other hand forces 14 turnovers per contest. Hopefully the Johnnies will create many turnovers on Monday night. The best way to defend your basket is by not letting the opposition even get a good shot at scoring.
Limit Fouls: On numerous occasions this season, Red Storm big men have struggled to defend without fouling. Yankuba Sima, Kassoum Yakwe, and Tariq Owens each average 3 fouls per contest.
One thing you do not want to do against Cal State Northridge is put them on the free-throw line. The Matadors are one of the better teams in the nation at converting free opportunities. They average as a team a 74% mark from the free-throw line.
St. John’s needs to limit fouls and uncontested scoring chances that Cal State Northridge has. Failure to do so may allow the Matadors to hang around all night long.
Against Tulane, St. John’s felt like a team that was eager to put their mishaps behind them. There has been no indication that same tenacity will let up against Cal State Northridge. Plain and simple, St. John’s has more talent and is the clear favorites on Monday night. Anything less than a double-digit win here would be truly concerning.
Final Prediction: 92-75 St. John’s