Despite being 11 days between games, we can assume nothing about Marquette at home, desperate for a win to keep NCAA hopes alive, missing a key player and still smarting from giving up 44 points to one guy.
Because the fact is that Marquette was putting pressure on St. John’s all game. Pride, and being at home, will be factors. And St. John’s needed an exemplary performance at home to pull off a win against the high-scoring Big East team from Milwaukee.
Can St. John’s do it again? Can St. John’s keep the streak, and the improbable hope of an NCAA Tournament berth alive? Can Ponds carry the team one more time? Can the defense stop the Golden Eagles’ high-powered scoring?
A look at what has changed since the last preview.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (14-13 I 3-11 Big East) at Marquette Golden Eagles (15-11, 6-8 Big East)
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center (capacity 18,600)
When: Wednesday, February 21st, 8:30 PM ET
TV: FSN / YES Network | Fox Sports Online
Audio: 570 AM WMCA; TuneIn Radio
Last Meeting: St. John’s watched Shamorie Ponds go to work for 44 points and the defense did just enough to keep the high-scoring Golden Eagles out of the W column, winning 86-78.
What’s new? Markus Howard, who averages 21 points per game in conference, is out. He suffered an injury against Creighton, and is doubtful for Wednesday’s game.
Sacar Anim is in! Or at least, in the game against Creighton, he stepped up, taking on a star’s level of possessions and scoring 26 points while dishing out 4 assists; he shot 9/12 inside the arc and 2/4 from beyond the three point arc. He started early and often, taking on a scoring load for a team that got six minutes from Markus Howard before the hip injury.
And Marquette won in Omaha.
On the season, Anim has been a slasher who tends to limit three-point attempts. The four attempts in Saturday’s game were a career-high for him. Against St. John’s, he scored 4 points on 2/7 shooting.
But the important part about him being on the floor is that he is a defender with some length, who will likely get the individual assignment on Ponds if and when the Golden Eagles platy man-to-man defense. (Greg Elliott, a long freshman guard who blocks shots, might get chances too.)
Which brings us to the other change...
Marquette played more zone, slowing the Creighton Bluejays down to .94 points/ possession in the second half. In the first half, the Bluejays scored 53 points and scored 1.51 points per possession. In that half, Creighton took a higher percentage of shots from outside the arc.
That said, Khyri Thomas also scored 16 of his 26 points in that half, shooting 5/5 inside the arc — on two dunks and three jumpers.
Keys to the Game
Shoot threes/ attack the zone. After getting worked over by Shamorie Ponds, expect extra attention on the St. John’s guard. Marquette has played more zone in their last game, using it to solid effect against Creighton in the second half. Expect zone to be used as a tool to keep Ponds from blowing by Marquette defenders, and to help send multiple players at Ponds. In response, the Johnnies will need to hit their threes — in rhythm, after moving the ball, of course.
Defend the glass. Marquette has more height than the Johnnies, and big man Matt Heldt was saddled with fouls in the first meeting. If he can avoid fouls, he will be a load to handle on the offensive glass, as will Sam Hauser and Harry Froling and guard Sacar Anim.
Play with aggressive poise. This will be a big, late road game. The Johnnies have to be as aggressive as they have been in attacking ballhandlers — especially with Howard out — but they have to stay poised and not lose sharpshooter Andrew Rowsey.
Let’s guess that it will be a little nervy and St. John’s wins, 81-79.