Yesterday, the St. John’s Red Storm played a closed scrimmage against the University of Rhode Island, a squad that went to last year’s NCAA Tournament, but lost a number of contributors to the team — and return three regulars.
The scrimmage, a way to measure how the Johnnies are coming together with their new additions, was covered by Zach Braziller, who was kind enough to feed a box score to amp the anxieties of the fans...
...because the Red Storm lost the scrimmage.
It’s a scrimmage, so DO NOT PANIC.
It’s a game with extra fouls (you’ll see a few players ended with six); there were, strangely, four technical fouls (really? was this a closed scrimmage #refshow?). These scrimmages are a time to work on some concepts in live action.
That said, we love numbers, and we love takeaways. And watching preseason action for the past few years, we have been able to see a few glimpses of the hoops future.
Remember watching the Johnnies lose to St. Thomas Aquinas? Undermanned though they may have been, it was an indication that the team was less talented and less prepared for the season than thought.
Remember the preseason loss to Rutgers? The Red Storm were pounded by an aggressive forward in the paint, an indication of how the Red Storm would struggle to battle inside and also to close teams out.
This Rhode Island team should be better than either of those teams, and should give the staff some strong indications of how far they need to go in the next weeks.
First, some observations:
Chris Mullin trotted out a logical starting five of Justin Simon, Shamorie Ponds, Mustapha Heron, Marvin Clark II, and Sedee Keita.
Mikey Dixon, L.J. Figueroa, and Bryan Trimble logged heavy minutes off the bench; Greg Williams saw a little time as well.
Missing were Josh Roberts and Marcellus Earlington.
Box score observations
On offense, we can see Shamorie Ponds can put up 17 points without dominating the percentage of shots taken; his eight attempts from the field were fifth for St. John’s. Ponds also had seven assists. Sedee Keita added 15 points on 10 shots, Justin Simon had 13 along with L.J. Figueroa.
While on the floor, Figueroa took the highest percentage of the shots.
Justin Simon may have had the best game, shooting all four of his shots from beyond the arc, and making three — along with hitting all four of his free throws, grabbing six defensive rebounds and handing out four assists. Simon did have three turnovers, however.
On the upside, the Johnnies forced turnovers on 22% of the Rams’ possessions. on the downside, the Red Storm turned the ball over on 25% of their own possessions. Six of the 19 team turnovers were by Shamorie Ponds. Four were by Figueroa.
Neither team shot well inside the arc (40% for URI, 36% for St. John’s).
Marvin Clark & Mustapha Heron had particular struggles inside the arc, combining to go 0/11 within the three-point line (and 4/10 combined from beyond the arc).
And on Mustapha Heron going 1/10: please note that Heron has performed that poorly about twice — against South Carolina in 2017 (2/10) and again against South Carolina in March of this year (1/9). In those games, he went to the free throw line six times and 10 times, respectively.
The Johnnies shot 44% on three pointers and got to the line 24 times (41% free throw to field goal rate) — both excellent marks that indicate a team that is attacking a bit more aggressively, and making outside shots.
Style-wise, one sees a Red Storm team that may have tried to press. The possessions were fairly high — 77 possessions, fewer possessions than last year’s Grand Canyon & Saint Joseph’s games only. The Rhode Island Rams made 28 shots on only 12 assists, meaning that they both shot a lot of threes (Jeff Dowtin went 5/7 from beyond the arc) and the Rams got some unassisted shots — putbacks and shots off the dribble.
Seeing that Keita had five fouls is a reminder that the team will need minutes from Josh Roberts and Marcellus Earlington. Also from the bench, Mikey Dixon and Bryan Trimble combined to go 0/6 from the field. Figueroa added a team-high four steals.
A mixed bag, for sure; in the exhibition and early-season outings, we will want to see the Johnnies tighten the defense, make shots inside the arc, and turn the ball over less frequently.