Despite the win and being 5-0, St. John’s will likely need an even stronger effort to defeat the Missouri Tigers.
The Red Storm fought hard on a night where the effort and defense were there, but the offense was lacking. The second half saw hints of frustration and individual play, trying to pull the team out of the funk. Yet, it was solo play from Marcus LoVett that helped keep the team within distance before the Red Storm struck.
(Did the staff make the right subs and find combinations that worked?)
Despite the shooting struggles, Shamorie Ponds found his way to the line 15 times. Kassoum Yakwe and Bryan Trimble Jr. played major minutes with some impact. And the team as a whole kept fighting, stayed composed at the free throw line, and pulled off a win that edged on “unlikely”, given their shooting woes.
St. John’s works to put out a more complete offensive performance in the second round against the Missouri Tigers, who blew out the Long Beach State 49ers.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (5-0) vs. Missouri Tigers (4-1)
What: Second Round of 2017 AdvoCare Invitational
Where: HP Field House, Kissimmee, Florida
When: Friday, November 24th, 11:00 AM ET
Audio: 970 AM WNYM; TuneIn Radio
Last Meeting: St. John’s defeated Missouri in the 1972 NIT, 82-81 in their only meeting.
Cuonzo Martin entered this season with a talented recruiting class as he took over the Missouri Tigers, and the highlight was freshman Michael Porter, Jr., a possible top pick in the NBA Draft.
A few weeks into the season, Porter is sidelined for the season with an injury/ surgery, but his little brother Jontay Porter, freshman Jeremiah Tilmon, and veterans Kevin Puryear and Jordan Barnett are producing a far better MIzzou squad than the one that got coach and alum Kim Andserson fired after last season.
The Tigers also get solid guard play from Canisius grad transfer Kassius Robertson and freshman Blake Harris; Harris was starting his first game of the season against Long Beach. The guards have had strong moments. Harris did all of his scoring inside the arc and handed out nine assists in the first-round win getting to the rim with ease. Robertson prefers to shoot outside the arc, but is a skilled scorer who can draw fouls.
Jordan Geist has been an inconsistent scorer but dropped 16 in the blowout.
On paper, the Tigers have been sloppy with the ball but very effective scoring inside, getting most of their most effective offense deep inside from Barnett, Tilmon and Puryear.
Jontay Porter, at 6’11”, has been their most talented player, with an ability to hit the perimeter shot, an ability to play point-forward so far and pulling down many rebounds.
Tilmon stands 6’10”; Puryear and Barnett are each 6’7”. Tilmon and Porter can affect shots inside, but Tilmon has struggled with foul trouble.
Keys to the Game
Keep the game running. St. John’s needs to play in transition and impose an energetic level of play. The Tigers have played slower games this season, and given their height and strength, will want to keep the game at a more controlled pace. Defensive pressure from Ponds, Marcus Lovett and Justin Simon will be essential.
Pressure Harris/ Robertson. The freshman guard and Robertson are good players, but St. John’s has to make every pass, every shoot or dribble decision hard. If the guards can force live-ball turnovers directly from them, great - but the key will be to disrupt their ball movement and flow.
Hit outside shots. St. John’s is growing more confidence in their ability to win games “ugly,” when the shots will not fall. Still, a zone-busting outside shooting performance would take some of the stress off the game, and open up some interior shots for the likes of Marvin Clark II.
St. John’s brings the pressure again and it’s a close game. But it’s the second game of the tournament... somehow, the lack of shooting catches up to the team. Missouri wins, 76-70.
I’m probably wrong, because St. John’s might enjoy even more live-ball turnovers against Mizzou - a team that benefitted from a Long Beach team that short-circuited from about the opening tip.