Hello Darkness, My Old Friend...
Red Storm fans are frustrated, and rightly so. After starting the season at 10-2, the Johnnies are currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak. This includes two home losses to Providence and DePaul in which St. John’s was favored in both games. In each game, the team lacked energy and possibly a sense of urgency.
Now the Johnnies find themselves in the basement of the Big East, and at a point where an NCAA tournament bid seems unlikely. But things can turn around... with one of the St. John’s Red Storm’s biggest rivals to come tomorrow in a game made for media excitement, no matter the quality of the game.
On the Docket
On Tuesday evening, the Georgetown Hoyas will be visiting Madison Square Garden, and like the Johnnies, Georgetown finds itself toward the bottom end of the Big East standings.
The hiring of Patrick Ewing created a lot of buzz around the Hoya program. That buzz seems to be fading following a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Butler, and a blowout loss to Creighton.
All of this being said, we should enjoy an exciting matchup in the World’s Most Famous Arena. Georgetown has gone to the style of play closer to thethe style of the 80’s - physical defense, coupled with an offense that likes to score on the break.
The saving grace the Johnnies have here is that the offensive effort by the Hoyas is hard to sustain. Ewing does not have the personnel he needs to truly run the floor for 40 minutes. The Hoyas, if slowed down, struggle to create good shots and turn the ball over due to a weak backcourt.
What to Know About the Hoyas
In a break from the John Thompson III era, Georgetown has shied away from the Princeton Offense and instead run their offense through big man Jessie Govan in the post, where, at 270 pounds and 6’11”, he is an imposing figure.
Throughout the season, Govan has been a matchup nightmare, averaging 18.1 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game. It is important to highlight his rebound numbers, as the Johnnies have struggled mightily to pull down rebounds all season; Govan grabs nearly 12% of the offensive misses (123rd in the country) and 27% of available misses on the defensive glass (23rd in the nation).
While St. John’s is undersized, it is important that they find a way to put a body on Govan. In the game against Creighton, Govan found it difficult to get easy looks at the basket and only walked away with seven points and five rebounds. This is where Tariq Owens can play a big part in stifling Govan, as he is capable of providing morale-crushing blocks.
Looking beyond Govan, Marcus Derrickson is another heavily-used piece in Ewing’s offensive system.
The junior is averaging 14.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG, and when Govan is struggling he can be a fairly reliable second option. It is worth noting that the physical defense employed by Creighton had an adverse effect on his ability to contribute. In his effort against Creighton, Derrickson walked away with 4 points and 5 rebounds.
How the Johnnies match up?
This game certainly will not be a walk in the park. St. John’s started the season with sky-high hopes, and a number of injuries and inconsistent performances have brought the program back down to earth.
The loss to DePaul was humbling, and now the only way is up. A win against Georgetown would be a step in the right direction, as the following two games against Villanova and Xavier will be against the class of the Big East.
The Johnnies should be able to pull off a win and finally get off the Big East schneid. The Johnnies will need Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon to step up getting to the basket, with LoVett unlikely to play against the Hoyas. Bashir Ahmed has been on a tear as of late, and if he can continue to get good looks from three he will force Georgetown to play honest defense.
The Georgetown backcourt, when put under pressure, has the tendency to turn the ball over and make bad passes.
If the Johnnies can employ the stifling on-ball defense seen earlier in the season, they can capitalize on turnovers and score baskets on the run. Georgetown has been sluggish to get back on defense, and St. John’s has been explosive on the break.
It is also important that the Johnnies defend the three.
Against Providence, St. John’s could not run out to the line to defend three-point opportunities. At times it seemed like there was a lack of effort, and Providence had free rein from the three-point line. If St. John’s can shut Georgetown down inside, they absolutely must ensure that Georgetown does not get any easy looks from outside.
The final point, which was highlighted in an earlier post, is St. John’s has fallen in love with jump shots. When the Johnnies were able to control games, Marvin Clark II and Tariq Owens were effective in the paint. With both players opting to shoot away from the basket, this limits their ability to pull down offensive rebounds. Since the Johnnies struggle with rebounds, this only compounds the issue.
Until Tuesday, Go Johnnies!