How much does the method matter?
That question has to be on the mind of at least some St. John’s supporters after the Red Storm gave up 110 points to Butler on Wednesday. It could be important to note that Butler starters were on the floor late in the game, when it was out of reach (it seemed out of reach from the third possession of the game).
But it is also important to note that defensively, the Red Storm were soundly worked over.
How bad was the St. John’s defense?
On a per-possession basis, Wednesday’s game was the worst defensive performance the team has had this season, giving up 1.43 points per possession - 1.49 pts/ possession in the first half and 1.37 in the second. It started early, it was a surgical assault, and it did not let up often for 40 minutes on any level, with Butler raining in 13/26 threes (50%), 21/33 twos (64%) and 29/40 free throws (73%).
It would have been the worst defensive performance the previous season.
(The 2015 team gave up 105 points at a 1.55 points per possession clip against Villanova in March, which was worse.)
Some numbers to note:
St. John’s only had two blocks, or 5% of the Butler shots. In conference play, the Johnnies average five blocks per game or 14% of opponent shots.
St. John’s forced turnovers on 17% of Butler possessions; they force turnovers at a 21% rate in conference play.
And our next takeaway...
The rebounding was notably bad on the defensive end
St. John’s allowed Butler to grab 48% of their own missed shots. St. John’s is bad at keeping opponents off the glass for second opportunities (evidence: the 36% rate of opponent offensive rebounding), but that was very, very bad.
In fact, that was the second-worst mark on the season to the domination by Old Dominion on the boards.
Rebounding badly on defense is a season-long problem, given the team’s lack of viable size (and now Darien Williams being injured for the past two games). But in the last five games since the tilt at Providence, St. John’s has allowed opponents to get 40% or more of their own misses in all but one game - the 36% against guard-oriented Marquette.
Size is an issue.
But so is technique (boxing out, tracking the ball).
Mussini comes alive?
Beyond the defense and rebounding, there’s not a lot to take from the game. Federico Mussini scored in double digits for the second time in 12 games of Big East play, and played his highest minutes total this season.
Does that mean anything?
Do we take away from this that Mussini just needs more minutes?
Or that he’s gaining confidence in his role?
Or do we take nothing away, noting that Mussini has struggled to make an impact, particularly in St. John’s better games (though he scored six against both Marquette and Seton Hall)?
The Red Storm have four more games to find an in-house solution to the interior weakness. The Creighton game on February 28th is most fearsome, but a road game at Marquette on Tuesday is an opportunity as are home games against Providence and Georgetown.