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Previewing St. John’s vs UCF Knights (Advocare Invitational third-place game)

The Red Storm hope to bounce back with an early afternoon win before heading back to NYC

Team huddle.
Wendell Cruz

St. John’s gets a day of rest before the final round of the Advocare Invitational Tournament bracket. That rest is needed after the efforts to come back in both the first-round win (to Oregon State) and the second-round loss (to Missouri).

St. John’s fell to the Missouri Tigers by the score of 90-82. The game featured Cuonzo Martin’s team winning a large share of rebounds on their offensive glass while also shooting the lights out from outside the arc.

Meanwhile, the Central Florida Golden Knights were thoroughly blasted by the high-pressure defense of West Virginia, losing 83-45 and making only four field goals in the first half. West Virginia put the screws to the Knights, and St. John’s hope to do the same.

Still, the local Knights have enough height to make a lackluster performance by the Red Storm into an L in the two teams’ Advocare finale.

St. John’s vs UCF Game Details

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (5-1) vs. UCF Golden Knights (4-1)

What: Third-place game of 2017 AdvoCare Invitational

Where: HP Field House, Kissimmee, Florida

When: Sunday, November 24th, 12:00 PM ET


Audio: 970 AM WNYM; TuneIn Radio

Last Meeting: St. John’s meets Central Florida for the first time.

Scouting UCF

The first player opponents notice on UCF is the 7’6” Senegalese center Tacko Fall, a relatively mobile player who happens to be the tallest active baller in college hoops. He’s not a sideshow; he uses his height well and can be a dominant rebounder and shot-blocker.

To maximize Fall’s skill set - one that is hard to match in the college game - the Golden Knights attempt to play a controlled game, getting back on defense and looking for deliberate offense.

Going into the season, head coach Johnny Dawkins thought he would have his son on the roster, an athletic wing who transferred from Michigan. But an injury has sidelined him for the season.

UCF is also missing a starting point guard, and is limiting Fall’s minutes as he works his way back from a hip injury that caused him to miss two games.

Senior forward AJ Davis has held things together on the floor. He can be a powerful nemesis on the glass despite being 6’8” and only 215 pounds. Rokas Uvyldas, Chad Brown and Myles Douglas also log some minutes up front.

The frontcourt is the focal point; UCF is not built to drill shots from outside the arc.

The backcourt is much more of a question mark. Freshman Cesar Dejesus starts next to Chance McSpadden; combined with guard Dayon Griffin, each has struggled to shoot outside the arc. The three combined for 11 turnovers against West Virginia. Terrell Allen is less of an offensive player, but does have a high steal rate.

Keys to the Game

Add pressure and spin. Against West Virginia, the Knights’ wheels fell off early. West Virginia forced turnovers on eight of nine possessions in the middle of the first half and did not look back.

The Knights’ guard play should be an advantage to St. John’s, assuming the Red Storm can be patient enough and wear them down. That approached worked in stretches against Missouri and should work as well against UCF.

Yes, the Johnnies need to decide whether to keep Fall out of the paint or keep the ball away from him; using the pressure defense to keep the ball away might be the solution that is in line with the team’s current man-to-man pressure defense style.

Make the smart plays/ move the ball. Fight on the glass. UCF’s advantage in this game is that they have the height and size advantage. The Red Storm’s advantage is a highly athletic quartet of guards and wings. That group, at times in the game against Missouri, got away from moving the ball and keeping the opposing defense moving. Better ball movement should help the Johnnies better exploit favorable matchups.

Defend inside without fouling. Stopping Tacko Fall and AJ Davis will require preparation, good guard defense, but also not sending players to the line with overemphatic defending or moving screens.


A bounce back win, 72-56, which will feature a few dunks from UCF and then spirited run by the Red Storm.