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St. John’s survives UNH scare, 74-61

A win so ugly that only a coach could love it

Wendell Cruz

When very little went St. John’s way, they found a way to win ugly over New Hampshire, 74-61.

St. John’s looks to make it four in a row against different large predatory cats of New England, the Vermont Catamounts, on Saturday at 4:00 PM in Carnesecca Arena.

It was a sloppy and undisciplined start for the Red Storm. Offensively, the team settled for multiple single pass possessions resulting in contested jumpers early in the clock. Defensively, St. John’s allowed UNH to get the ball into the paint with ease and only lightly contested any subsequent shots. These easy paint looks led to even easier shots from behind the arc, with UNH converting 50% (7 of 14) of them in the half. To make matters worse, Mustapha Heron picked up his second foul five minutes into the game.

The Wildcats went on a 16-3 run before the midpoint in the half, putting St. John’s into their first double-digit deficit of the season. However, like the hero St. John’s needed, David Caraher knocked down a couple from deep, the Red Storm forced UNH into a shot-clock violation, and St. John’s looked like the new St. John’s again.

Wendell Cruz

It was not beautiful modern basketball that got the Red Storm back into the game. It was some semblance of the days of Big East past with multiple follow-ups on the offensive glass (9 first half offensive rebounds), physical play, and isolated contested jumpers and runners. However, to the Red Storm’s credit, their production in an ugly game prevented the game from getting out of reach. Marcellus Earlington’s layup in the final seconds capped off a 13-2 run for the Red Storm to end the half and put St. John’s up 36-34 going into the break.

Five minutes into the half, which featured similar sloppy offense but much improved defense by the Johnnies, the Red Storm pressure forced the first 10-second back-court violation of the season. With the St. John’s defensing suppressing most any source of offense for the Wildcats, the Johnnies slowly pulled away.

Offensively, the ball stayed on one half of the half court seemingly every possession. Every time the ball went into the paint, the Red Storm ball-handler slowly pivoted towards the basket, and with two or three Wildcats around them, threw up a shot attempt. This approach lasted until the under-8 minute timeout in the second half and led to the Johnnies shooting 38% from the field in the second half, and 11 of 28 on layups for the game until that point.

Wendell Cruz

For the last eight minutes of the game, the ball began moving sideline to sideline, and the Red Storm positioned themselves to put the game away. LJ Figueroa led the way in the second half, and particularly late. After a 12 point (4/10 FG, 3/5 3PT) effort in the first half, LJ followed up with more efficient 13 points (3/9 FG, 2/4 3PT) in the half.

Behind Figueroa’s quality second half, the Red Storm sealed their third victory of the season, 74-61.

St. John’s Red Storm

LJ Figueroa: 25 points (7/19 FG, 5/9 3PT), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers

Josh Roberts: 12 points (6/10 FG), 7 rebounds

Julian Champagnie: 11 points (5/7 FG), 9 rebounds, 1 assist

New Hampshire Wildcats

Mark Carbone: 14 points (4/9 FG, 2/5 3PT), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover

Chris Lester: 12 points (4/13FG, 3/7 3PT), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers