Wins over No. 4 Duke and No. 1 Villanova have rekindled a bit of hope for the Red Storm, elevating the team’s confidence and profile, while the defense quietly makes it mark, despite little depth. On a three-game winning streak and back at the .500 mark, St. John’s is looking to finish the regular season strong.
A double-digit loss at home to DePaul got the ball rolling for the St. John’s basketball team’s month-long nightmare, but the rematch on Wednesday in Chicago presents an opportunity to keep the pendulum swinging in the other direction.
Shamorie Ponds is expected to continue his blistering-hot play.
Ponds has earned back-to-back Big East Conference Player of the Week honors and has averaged 33.5 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting in the four games since he hit rock bottom, an 0/12 shooting performance in a 25-point loss to Butler. Against DePaul, Ponds still in a midseason funk/ recovering from injury and was just 7/24 with 15 points, including 1/9 on 3-pointers.
But Marquette’s defense is the worst in the Big East; Villanova’s is 8th in league play; and Duke was known to be defensively lacking. DePaul, while not an elite defense, has been the fourth best defense in Big East play.
Can the Red Storm keep it going, well enough to put the wraps on DePaul’s big men and perimeter shooting? Can Ponds adapt to taller defenders and a stronger defense?
More honors for @ShamorieP! The sophomore guard has been named the @USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week and the MBWA All-Met Player of the Week— St. John's BBall (@StJohnsBBall) February 13, 2018
STORY- https://t.co/j4DFhMhUws pic.twitter.com/0hkPzYANR9
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (13-13, 2-11 Big East) vs. DePaul Blue Demons (10-14, 3-9 Big East)
Where: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL (capacity 10,387)
When: Wednesday, February 14th, 9:00 PM ET
TV: CBS Network | CBS Sports Online
Audio: Tune In Radio
Last Meeting: DePaul broke open their first meeting at Carnesecca Arena on January 6th, winning 91-74.
Last five games: W, L, L, L, W
That blowout win over St. John’s was been DePaul’s highest point in conference play as the team lost seven of their following eight games before a 17-point win over Providence last Saturday.
The Red Storm already experienced what the Blue Demons’ top two scorers can do, and they have to do quite a bit considering DePaul is dead last in the Big East and ninth in shooting.
Marin Maric led all scorers in that January 6th meeting with 25 points (17 in the second half) and 11 rebounds. Max Strus also recorded a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and hit three 3-pointers for DePaul.
Tre’Darius McCallum had one of his best games of the season against the Red Storm with 16 points and nine rebounds. Eli Cain chipped in 11 with a pair of 3-pointers. With a consistent offense and efficient shooting all throughout the game — including 47% from behind the arc and 50% inside it — DePaul led by as much as 19 in the contest.
What also really did St. John’s in during the first meeting was the effort on the glass. A bigger DePaul team out-rebounded them 46 to 30 and picked up 15 offensive rebounds. DePaul scored 20 second-chance points and got to the line 29 times, which is the team’s strength. The Red Storm also shot just 32% from the field in the second half, which allowed the Blue Demons to pull away late.
Since that game, DePaul has won two games, against Georgetown and in their last game against Providence where they knocked off the Friars by 17 in Providence.
The DePaul defense has been credible, despite the losses. Height all over the roster and rugged rebounding keep them in games, and they force turnovers. But there is a reason this team is 3-11 in Big East play — the offense often struggles, with turnovers and poor two point shooting.
Marin Maric has not hit a three-pointer in a month, but has improved his interior scoring. He and fellow forward Paul Reed, who has seen more minutes in recent games, can be effective near the basket with the right pass. Jaylen Butz has seen fewer minutes, but is a big presence, while undersized forward Tre’Darius McCallum is deft in the mid-range.
Max Strus and Eli Cain are long, creative scorers; Cain will drive off the dribble, and Strus is a catch-and-shoot danger. Guard Justin Roberts is small and quick. Wing Brandon Cyrus is a danger on the offensive glass.
Keys to the Game
Play under control. In attempting to force turnovers in the last game, St. John’s often overshot DePaul shooters. In attempting to shoot over the packed-in defense, St. John’s often took “settle” shots. Moving the ball, playing the right way, and executing on defense without gambling will be key.
Play better on the glass. DePaul had 15 offensive rebounds in the last game. That can’t happen again; the Blue Demons converted those opportunities into shots and free throws (they led in FT attempts 29-14).
Attack, adapt, adjust. This will be a harder game than one might think. DePaul plays packed in, forcing teams to shoot, and has a lot of length to bother Shamorie Ponds with. The DePaul game has to be a team effort, getting paint touches for Tariq Owens and Marvin Clark II, getting transition opportunities, getting attacking opportunities for Bashir Ahmed.
This will come down to the wire, but St. John’s wins 74-70.