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St. John’s vs. Sacred Heart: How to watch, preview

The Johnnies kick off December at home.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

After a solid trip to Orlando for the AdvoCare Invitational, the Red Storm return home for a bout with Sacred Heart.

The Pioneers commence what seems to be a tough December slate for St. John’s. Coach Chris Mullin’s unit will play Arizona State, Providence, Seton Hall, among others before the new year - and will be away from the cozy confines of Carnesecca Arena for much of the month.

With challenges against tougher teams in Phoenix, Los Angeles and in Connecticut, this game will be an easy matchup to overlook.

But in years past, the Red Storm have dropped non-conference to low-level teams; the Johnnies need to take this game seriously on the day when they honor legendary coach Joe Lapchick with a new statue.

Game Details

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (6-1) versus Sacred Heart Pioneers (3-4)

When: Saturday, December 2nd, 4:30 PM ET

Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY

TV: Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Go

Audio: 970 WNYM AM

Scouting Sacred Heart

According to KenPom’s ratings, the Pioneers are the third worst St. John’s opponent this season. Only Central Connecticut and Molloy are rated lower.

Led by coach Anthony Latina, Sacred Heart brings a balanced approach. But after two years of losing high-level players to high-major programs, the Pioneers appear to be significantly outmatched in relation to St. John’s.

On offense, the Pioneers have struggled mightily. Shooting has been an issue, as they only shoot 25% from behind the arc. Additionally, Sacred Heart has squandered many free throw opportunities, collectively shooting 64% from the line.

Furthermore, Sacred Heart has not valued the basketball. Almost 26% of their possesions end in turnover. Just about 10% of their possesions are stolen, which the Red Storm guards will enjoy. For the NEC team, it is tough to win when you turn the ball over that frequently.

Defensively, the Pioneers poise a little more of a threat to St. John’s. Sacred Heart has protected the arc very well. Opponents have shot a poor 32% from deep. On top of that, the Pioneers do not allow many offensive rebounds. Off opposing missed shots, they block out well and crash the boards.

Unfortunately, they have had issues creating turnovers and blocking shots. Without much rim protection or tough defense on ball handlers, St. John’s may have a fast-break frenzy against Sacred Heart.

Keys to contest

Stay out of foul trouble: St. John’s has a significant talent advantage in this contest. Playmakers like Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett should be able to create opportunities and disrupt opposing chances. The only issue that may arise is foul trouble, which could sideline playmakers and shorten the bench.

Start early: The Red Storm have a chance to win big here. Letting Sacred Heart stay within striking distance into the second half would tarnish those chances. To avoid a tight contest, St. John’s must jump out to a big lead early on.

Defend with energy: The Johnnies held Central Florida in check last time out. They must do more of the same to pick up a nice lead. Sacred Heart not only struggles to shoot, they also turn the ball over an extraordinary amount. Strong defensive effort could go a long way against the Pioneers.

Predictions

St. John’s could use a confidence-boosting blowout victory. After a bruising trip to Orlando, the Johnnies need to ease back into their best form. On paper, it seems as if the Red Storm can overpower Sacred Heart with sheer talent. The only way St. John’s does not win in lopsided fashion is if they get into serious foul trouble.