After a grueling road trip that took St. John’s over two bridges, into the middle of New Jersey, and all the way over to Fort Greene, near that faraway land where Chris Mullin grew up, the Red Storm, thankfully, get to play a game at home against the sharp-taloned Hawks of Maryland Eastern Shore.
For high-major teams, this is the kind of game that allows a team to sharpen its attack. This is also the kind of game where players sometimes lose a bit of attention and forget that the ball will go in the basket if you leave a Division I player open.
More on the Hawks, their record and which of their players could be a challenge to contain, below.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (5-0) vs Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks (1-5)
Where: Carnesecca Arena
When: Tuesday, November 27, 6:30 PM
TV: FS1 | FoxSportsGo
Audio: 970 WNYM | TuneIn Radio
Odds: St. John’s, -28
Last meeting: In 2005, St. John’s defeated Maryland-Eastern Shore by the score of 77-40 to open the season in Phil Missere’s senior year.
Rankings & School Notes
Last season final KenPom Ranking: 349 | Current KenPom Ranking: 348
School size: 3,492 (2,862 undergraduates)
School is academically known for: Agriculture, Criminal Justice
Notable alumni: David Banner (rapper), Emerson Boozer (NY Jets great)
Scouting Maryland-Eastern Shore
Maryland Easter Shore has one win. It is against Central Penn College. That is a Division II team.
Against Division I teams, UMES has lost by 15 to Georgetown, 46 to NC State, 3 to Longwood, 34 to North Texas, and 38 to Mercer. Those margins should give you a sense of the likely quality of this team.
The head coach is the former Bethune-Cookman coach Clifford Reed. Reed, who coached Bethune-Cookman for ten seasons before being fired while contesting a rape accusation against his son (who was not charged), is currently the UMES coach on an interim basis; the previous coach did not have his contract renewed, and the school announced that Reed would be a year-long interim coach.
Reed took Bethune-Cookman to face St. John’s and lost to Norm Roberts’ squad in 2008-09 (Quincy Roberts and TyShwan Edmondson’s freshman years).
Their defense is a bit more competent than their offense, but this MEAC team is playing one of those schedules where they take the check, hope to build in individual performances, and expect to win more come conference play.
The Hawks are one of the ten worst-shooting teams in the country at 35% from outside the arc, and are shooting 41% inside the arc (345th). Rebounding on both sides of the floor is bad. They are short, return three starters from last season (two of whom currently play off the bench)...
One thing the Hawks can do is steal the ball. Newcomer guard Bryan Urrutia (#13) is one of the nation’s best in steal rate, taking the ball on 5.2% of opponent possessions. Ahmad Frost (#11) is solid at forcing steals as well.
Those guards and scorer Ryan Andino (#1) are all between 6-foot and 6’2”. and look for much of their offense outside the arc. Urrutia does get to the rim, though, and needs to be guarded. When shooting away from the rim, his shooting has been poor. He has been by far their most effective passer. Canaan Bartley (#3) also plays guard and can be annoying on defense.
AJ Cheeseman (#12), a transfer from New Orleans, takes a lot of the Hawks’ shots. At 6’7”, 225 lbs., he blocks some shots and can step out a little, though without success so far this year. He has not been an effective rebounder. Gabriel Gyamfi (#22) can crash the boards decently at 6’6”, 185.
Also in the mix is Tyler Jones (#15), who can step out and hit a shot. He started the first two games and was a major contributor last season, but has not found his footing yet. Dontae Caldwell (#20) started the team’s first two games but has been playing off the bench.
Keys to the Game
Drink the coffee, play hard. St. John’s can put this game out of reach early. North Texas, Mercer and NC State all managed to outscore UMES by at least ten and hold the Hawks to six or fewer points in the first ten minutes. Avoiding threes/ playground shots and running crisp offense will be key.
No easy threes. The Red Storm’s switching and scrambling defenses have allowed for open looks from the corner. This is a fine game to see how good this team can be defensively when locked in.
Get the bench rolling. St. John’s needs to depend less on Shamorie Ponds’ efforts on a game to game basis (and Mustapha Heron’s as well). After establishing themselves, the team needs to get some shots for the likes of Mikey Dixon, Bryan Trimble Jr., and, yes, Greg Williams Jr. and Josh Roberts and Marcellus Earlington. Those shots should be in the flow of offense, though, and perhaps each of those three should seek to make a defensive impact, first.
St. John’s will struggle to really pounce on UMES, but by the end of the first half should have the game solidly in hand. 90-55.