St. John’s basketball seems to be revitalized following a huge three game winning streak.
"All these experiences are very valuable. Even the tough losses, we have to learn from them.” Said Chris Mullin to reporters following a road victory at DePaul. “We had two good wins, but we didn't get over excited. We analyzed how we played well. And the things we did bad we tried to correct.”
The Red Storm will gain another valuable experience Wednesday night, as the No. 10 Creighton Bluejays are set to visit Queens.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (8-7) vs #10 Creighton Bluejays (13-1)
What: Big East Conference game
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
When: Wednesday, January 4th, 8:30 PM
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 570 WMCA.
Tickets: Help contribute to a raucous Carnesecca environment by purchasing tickets here. You can find good seats for under $20.00.
Last Meeting: Creighton slammed the Johnnies 100-59 in Nebraska. Chris Mullin was ejected from that contest.
Led by coach Greg McDermott, the Bluejays have been one of the very best in college basketball this year. Many anticipated Creighton to be strong this season, and much to their credit they have been just that.
Creighton has already picked up a few impressive wins this season. They have topped Wisconsin and Seton Hall at home. In addition, they picked up wins against NC State and Ole Miss at the Paradise Jam. Also during non-conference play the Bluejays secured road victories at Nebraska and Arizona State.
Their lone loss this year came at home against No. 1 Villanova. Despite their loss, Creighton held steady in the latest AP Poll, clinging to that 10 spot.
One reason these Bluejays have been so hard to defeat is because of their high-powered offense. Creighton succeeds because they shoot the ball well and limit their turnovers. They currently shoot 54% from the field as a unit. That is good for second best in the nation, just barely behind UCLA. Their hot shooting extends beyond the arc as well, while their 43% three-point field goal percentage also is second best in the country.
Something the Bluejays have struggled with offensively has been consistently getting to the free-throw line. About 15% of their total points come from the line, which is much lower than the national average.
Defensively, Creighton has been solid throughout this season. KenPom currently ranks their defense 74th best in the country. Their man defense aims to slow down opponents and force them to beat themselves. Creating turnovers and forcing bad shots are two main goals of Bluejay defenders. Their opponents have shot 43% from the field, 34% from three, and turn the ball over about 15 times per game.
Altogether, Creighton is a team that relies on shooting lights out and simply outscoring their opponents. Their defense isn’t terrible, but it is definitely not their strong suit.
Bluejays to watch
Marcus Foster: Creighton’s leading scorer who is averaging 19 points per game, while shooting 50% from the field. He is an explosive threat and Creighton’s main offensive threat. Foster has taken 199 shots this season. The next closest teammate has attempted 145 shots.
Cole Huff: This senior forward is an extremely dynamic offensive threat. He currently average 9 points and 3 rebounds per game, but most impressively he is shooting about 51% from three. Listed at 6-foot-8, Huff attempts nearly 4 three-point shots per game.
Khyri Thomas: Omaha native Khyri Thomas is an emerging youngster in the Big East. This season he is averaging about 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. What is most devastating for Bluejay opponents are the 2 steals he averages per game. That is good for third in the Big East, behind Shamorie Ponds and Jajuan Johnson.
Keys to contest
Defend the arc: Creighton does not function properly if they are not converting on three-point attempts. Luckily for them, they hardly ever struggle to shoot from deep or anywhere for that matter. St. John’s needs to close out on all Bluejay shooters to give themselves a chance at yet another upset victory.
Rebound: When going up against a hot shooting team, it is important that you limit the amount of shots they take. St. John’s must cap off defensive stops with rebounds to beat Creighton. St. John’s averages 38 rebounds per game while Creighton only averages 35. Winning the rebound battle will be critical to pulling this one off.
Value the ball: Young teams often struggle to limit their turnovers. For the most part, St. John’s has kept their turnover total down, but at times they have really struggled to keep possession. The Red Storm can’t afford to cough up the basketball too often in this one.
Shooting the basketball well gives any team a chance to win games. Creighton is arguably the best all-around shooting team in the country. If St. John’s can limit the Bluejays offensive output, they will have an opportunity to grab a program-changing victory. It may be unlikely, but beating Creighton is certainly not impossible.
KenPom Prediction: 84-78 Creighton (70% chance of Bluejays victory)