Before Big East play commences at the end of December, St. John’s has some work to rounding out their nonconference slate. The only remaining games outside the Big East are Iona, Saint Joseph’s, and Duke.
Since the NCAA Tournament remains the ultimate goal this season, it is imperative the Red Storm win at least two of their outstanding contests out of conference. That task endures on Sunday afternoon against Iona.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (8-2) versus Iona Gaels (5-4)
What: Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: Sunday, December 17th, 4:30 PM ET
TV: FS1 or Fox Sports GO
Audio: 970 WNYM AM
Tickets: You can grab a seat for $27 by clicking here.
Last Meeting: The two teams last played in December of 1995, where Iona, coached by the future Providence coach Tim Welsh, won, 70-57. The two teams are 3-3 against each other since 1974.
Led by 8th-year head coach Tim Cluess, the Gaels are centered around their high octane offense.
Iona prefers to limit their time with the ball, playing very up-tempo, and creating more possessions for themselves.
When the Gaels have the ball, they have done an excellent job protecting it. Just about 16% of their possessions end in a turnover, which is relatively very good across college basketball.
Furthermore, Iona is an efficient shooting team. Collectively as a team, they have shot 51% inside the arc, and 37% from beyond the perimeter. They are also top ten in the nation in free throw shooting, converting on just about 80% of their chances from the stripe.
Defensively, Iona has been a different story. They have allowed teams to shoot the ball very well against them. Opponents have converted 52% of their shots within the arc, and 38% from deep. They also have not created many turnovers, only flipping possession on 19% of the time.
For more in-depth scouting on Iona, check out Norman’s latest piece by clicking here.
Keys to contest
Attack the bucket: St. John’s has been very ineffective shooting within the three-point line. Only 45% of their shots have come from that area. Against a weaker defensive unit, St. John’s should take advantage by attacking the basket more so than they have previously.
Limit the fouls: Almost 21% of Iona’s points this season have come from the foul line. The Gaels do not miss many free throw attempts, and St. John’s does not have the depth to get into foul trouble. The Red Storm must avoid fouling to pull this one off.
Slow down Iona: The Gaels play more of an up-tempo game. St. John’s needs to control the tempo of this contest and ensure Iona does not run all around them. Iona is less comfortable playing a half-court game, which is what St. John’s defensive unit must try to make them play.
St. John’s has had a week of rest following a west coast road trip. Playing at Madison Square Garden for the first time this season, hopefully, the Johnnies are alert and energetic. St. John’s should finish off the Gaels in the second half en route to an 88-76 victory.