No rest for the weary... of losing.
After the debacle that was the 89-56 loss to the Butler Bulldogs on Saturday, the Red Storm travel to Washington D.C. to take on the sizeable Georgetown Hoyas, losers of three straight. Even in a year where SMU and Louisville are not NCAA Tournament-eligible, Georgetown knows that one more loss drops them from any consideration for an at-large bid.
For St. John's, the rest of the season is about pride. Saturday's performance spurred senior guard Ron Mvouika to say "mentally, we broke down. We beat ourselves down."
The hardest part of a rebuild season like this is the cumulative effect of losing on players. It's not that they don't try; it's the feeling that when something goes wrong, the build up of "here we go again" feelings and the helplessness of not having positive memories to draw on, ways to combat the snowball of a team that has found an attack that works.
And in a full round-robin like the Big East, how does a team look at an opponent that clocked them by 20 points in Madison Square Garden - the gray clad Hoyas - and say, tonight is going to be different than that 93-73 loss? Especially in a venue where the Red Storm have not won in ten games, since 2003?
Can St. John's delete the memory of Saturday and come with a great effort against the Hoyas?
How to Watch
Who: St. John's Red Storm (7-17, 0-11 Big East) vs Georgetown Hoyas (13-11, 6-5 Big East)
Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C. (Capacity: 20,600)
When: Monday, February 8, 2016, 7:00 PM
TV: FS1 | Fox Sports Go
Audio: 970 WMCA
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates
Last Meeting: Georgetown clobbered St. John's 93-73
Fun Fact: Georgetown's blue and gray color scheme is in honor of alumni who wore Union blue and Confederate gray in the Civil War.
The NCAA Tournament bubble is favorable this year, with few mid-major teams with "lock' resumes; even the Atlantic-10's third and fourth place teams (Saint Joseph's and George Washington) have serious warts, bad losses.
We bring this up because Georgetown, blessed with size and talent, is struggling through a season where even a few losses could be forgiven, but the Hoyas are teetering on the edge, flirting with danger. With only one good win - the road victory over Xavier - coupled with losses to Radford and UNC Asheville at home ((and possibly Monmouth, who the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee may not realize is an excellent team), the Hoyas need some good wins.
And the Hoyas cannot afford a loss to St. John's.
In conference play, the Hoyas continue to be led by the talents of D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who has been an excellent passer and outside shooter. Sophomore guard Tre Campbell blew up against Xavier with a career-high 21 points in support... and since, has scored 10 points in five games (and has been scoreless in the last three).
Meanwhile, the excellent size of the Hoya front line, which features excellent defensive rebounding and shot-blocking, has been plagued with foul trouble. Jesse Govan, the great passer and big man out of Queens, managed 11 minutes and four fouls against Seton Hall on Saturday. Joining the four-foul club was 6'9" Isaac Copeland (his fouls all came in the final 1:22, as the Hoyas were trying to extend the game with fouls) and big guard LJ Peak, while starting center Bradley Hayes and emerging forward Marcus Derrickson fouled out.
Otherwise, the Hoyas are who they are - dependent on the outside shooting of Smith-Rivera and Peak, large at all positions, which makes their interior defense solid. They do a very good job of forcing opponents to shoot inside the arc, where they can control and defend those shots.
Keys to the Game
Effort early, effort always. Despite the Groundhog Day feel of some of the games, St. John's has to continue to battle for points, try to play fast, and try to put opponents in uncomfortable situations with their mix of defenses. Defending the Hoyas means always being aware and active, always closing out on their two dangerours perimeter shooters, and putting in effort down low to make the Hoya shots come from short range and midrange jumpers.
Find outside shots. With Yankuba Sima back, St. John's has a little inside presence. But this team isn't likely to win a paint-based game. The Johnnies have to activate the shooting prowess of Mvouika (who is shooting 42% from outside the arc in conference play) and Durand Johnson and Federico Mussini, who have both struggled to shoot the ball from distance. (Amar Alibegovic hitting outside shots would be a huge help, as well.)
Force turnovers. The Red Storm has had some decent defensive success for stretches recently, and needs those good defensive moments to continue - to help take the crown out of the game.
This is a bad matchup for the size-challenged and shooting-struggling Johnnies. 75-61, Hoyas.