St. John’s gets one more chance for a tune-up before the two-game Hall of Fame Basketball Classic at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut this weekend.
The Red Storm offense has had struggles against set defenses, continuing to work out the kinks with a new coach, a new roster, and new lead ballhandlers. With Rasheem Dunn getting into the flow after being deemed eligible, the team hopes for a better home result than the loss to Vermont on Saturday.
Columbia may be a surprisingly tough team to crack, but the Red Storm will have more motivation after the loss.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (3-1) vs. Columbia Lions (1-3)
When: Wednesday, November 20th, 7:00 PM ET
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: FS1 and Fox Sports Go.
Audio: St. John’s website provides free audio for the game. That stream can be found by clicking here.
Tickets: You can secure a seat for a low of $30 by clicking here.
Last Meeting: St. John’s defeated Columbia in 2013, 65-59 in the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. The Johnnies are 18-7 against the Ivy League team from Manhattan in a series that dates back to 1916... back then, Columbia won the first five in the intra-city matchup.
Famous Columbia alumni
Yeah, yeah, they have lots: Alexander Hamilton, John Jay,
Dwight Eisenhower, [thanks for the correction, BirdIsTheWord!] and Barack Obama all graduated from Columbia. But it’s also a haven for actors, some already into their careers & taking a break for education: Anthony Perkins, Ossie Davis, Mario Van Peebles, Tony Kushner, “Grandpa” Al Lewis, Cara Buono, Julia Stiles, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhall, Amanda Peet, Jenny Slate, Rider Strong (Boy Meets World), Jesse Bradford, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emmy Rossum, Kate McKinnon, and Famke Janssen. Lauryn Hill also went for a year, and Lauren Graham went to Barnard.
Oscar Hammerstein, Art Garfunkel, Isaac Asimov, Brian DePalma, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Teju Cole, Andrew Yang and Vanessa Carlton also went to Columbia.
Maybe it’s a fluke — though last year’s Columbia team played an even easier schedule with worse results — but the Lions defense has been ferocious this season. Despite being 1-3, Columbia has held all four opponents — including Virginia and Wake Forest — under 1 point per possession, generally considered pretty good defense.
The Lions have been good at forcing turnovers without generating steals — in other words, getting their foes to make mistakes — and have been solid at stifling three-point success. They have rebounded well, not allowing offensive rebounds.
But on offense, their ability to shoot, especially from deep, has undercut the advantages they generate on defense. The Lions topped 30% from deep once, in their sole win over Binghamton. They do not crash the glass, get to the line, or score well inside (but they do protect the ball).
Facts: The Lions have been a team that by nature doesn’t get to the line under Jim Engles, but the team is missing a pair of talents, exacerbating the problem. Italian guard Gabe Stefanini is healing from an injury and surgery, while forward Patrick Tape, chose to not play this year; he will finish his degree, and transfer to another institution for graduate school.
Led by Staten Island native Jim Engles — a man who made NJIT a competitive force on the hardwood, taking over after their winless season — the Lions hope that this year is one where they return to winning more games, as they did under former coach Kyle Smith (now at Washington State).
Point guard Mike Smith (#21), a two-time all-Ivy League honor roll selection this season and newly-minted 1,000 point scorer in his career, is a solid scorer with good quickness, toughness, and an ability to pass. At 5’11”, he will not be a threat on the glass, and this three-point shooting has been spotty his whole career; Smith will draw some fouls. Fellow Chicago-area native Tai Bibbs (#33) will join him in the backcourt; he’s an inconsistent shooter but a solid defender.
The team has a number of spot-up shooting wings in senior Jake Killingsworth (#20) and Jack Forrest (#4), a freshman. Cameron Shockley-Okeke (#12) also provides depth at the wing, along with Maka Ellis (#32).
Up front, Ike Nweke (#24) is a solid rebounder on both ends, and Randy Brumant (#13) rebounds, blocks shots, and can shoot from deep. Joseph Smoyer (#50) is 6’11” and provides even more height off the bench.
Keys to the Game
Force turnovers. At the heart of Mike Anderson’s style is a need to force miscues, turnovers, and deflect the ball. The one offensive thing Columbia has done well is handle the ball; the Johnnies need to disrupt that and break down the Lions.
Use the size inside. The Johnnies may not be particularly big in the paint, but they are energetic and willing. Josh Roberts and Julian Champagnie could use a game to flex their offensive muscle — and cause trouble for Columbia on defense.
Better offensive rhythm. In the game against Vermont, deft defense led to the Johnnies finishing possessions with the wrong player shooting, with turnovers, and with a lot of struggle. A stronger show on offense is needed against Columbia.
25 minutes of hell in a renewed effort, and a 74-62 victory.