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Rough start for St. John’s half court offense

The Johnnies are in need of better performances on offense — from their stars and the rest of the roster.

Vermont v St John’s Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Not every team will hand the St. John’s 20+ turnovers and let the Red Storm run up and down the court.

What happens when the Johnnies have to make points against a set defense?

While Mercer was an entertaining thrill ride, four games for St. John’s have made it clear that half-court offense is a work in progress for Mike Anderson’s side.

The Johnnies have won three games. But against both New Hampshire and Vermont, the offense was exposed as a hardship for large chunks of the game, because against teams that can break through the first level of pressure, fast break offense is harder to come by.

The team has been dependent on Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa taking advantage of every available opportunity in the half court, attacking downhill, spotting up for threes, finishing in transition.

But in four games, the two of them have combined to shoot 30% inside the arc, 20/66. Figueroa, in particular, has also struggled around the rim, shooting 6/18 on layups and dunks.

When Heron and Figueroa are struggling to find the range on their drives, when they are bottled up going to the basket and do not get foul calls, the Red Storm have lacked effective counterpunches. When the two stars are slowed down, the team ends possessions with Julian Champagnie exploring his jumper or Nick Rutherford taking a three — both of which have not been efficient options in the early going.

Raw talent has its limits. So does the offensive rebounding and protecting the ball well, both which have helped the Johnnies’ offense.

In the words of Mike Anderson before the Vermont game, “you’ve got to have people who can break down people and be able to create.”

Where is that creativity going to come from in what has been a perimeter-based offense? The hope is for Rasheem Dunn to add another scoring element to the team, but others — David Caraher and Greg Williams Jr. — will need to add to the attack.

After the last game, Mike Anderson noted the missed opportunities; despite the half-court struggles, the team was close to slipping away with a W. The team does enough on defense to stay competitive, even if the offensive scheme is struggling to be executed.

“I thought we shot ourselves in the foot between the free throw line and turning the ball over,” Anderson said. “You can’t do that. You can’t do that.”