“We’ve just got to get this one out of our system,” Mike Anderson, coach of St. John’s, said after the 80-67 loss against Arizona State.
There’s a lot to work out — the errant passes to players cutting the wrong way, the struggles Mustapha Heron and the team had, the way the squad couldn’t slow down Arizona State or their star guard in the second half, the point guards’ struggles against pressure, the team’s overall poise — a lot.
Facing UMass, the Johnnies have a chance to end this trip going 1-1. But the UMass Minutemen have a new energy that will be hard to contain — and have shown real promise early in the season.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (4-2) vs. Massachusetts Minutemen (5-1)
When: Sunday, November 24th, 3:30 PM ET
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT
TV: ESPN2 | WatchESPN
Audio: Tune In Radio
Tickets: Tickets are available as low as $10/ each for the game.
After a pair of losing seasons, Matt McCall — who had a pair of good years at Chattanooga before coming up to Amherst, MA — turned everything over. He fired his three assistants and brought in three more. Seven players transferred out of the program.
His new squad has put up 79 or more points in each of their home games, has a road win (over Fairfield), and were competitive against Virginia for stretches.
The team takes a lot of three-pointers, will press and trap, rebounds poorly on both ends... and is young. The ninth-youngest team in the country (based on weighted minutes played, per kenpom.com), the Minutemen lean heavily on star freshman Tre Mitchell (#33).
Mitchell, a 6’9”, 240 pound big, was a top-100 post player with offers from/ visits to Connecticut and Notre Dame. He sucks in defenses, has good footwork inside, rebounds on defense, blocks shots, and can even step out and shoot threes. His high school coach at Woodstock Academy, Tony Bergeron, is now a UMass assistant.
Returnees Carl Pierre (#12) and Keon Clergot (#4, and the “g” is a soft g) add scoring punch; Mitchell will kick the ball out to one of the scorers. Pierre is very much a catch and shoot player, and has multiple 20-point games in his career. Clergot is a shooter who will slash to the basket with varied results.
TJ Weeks, the son of former UMass star big man Tyrone Weeks (#23), also played at Woodstock. He is a walking heat check, and will pull whenever he thinks he has room. Weeks also picks up steals.
Sean East (#10) is a freshman point guard with good quickness. His assist and shooting numbers have been excellent, but he went 1/3 for two points and an assist against Virginia. He also generates steals.
Senegalese big Samba Diallo (#5) is a 6’7” threat on the offensive glass. Sy Chatman (#1), a 6’8” big, got on the floor for the first time this year today. Djery Baptiste (#11), 6’10”, will also see some time. The big Hatian will block some shots.
Keys to the Game
“We just keep the young guys together and focus on the next game” — LJ Figueroa
Slow them down early. It’s important not to let UMass get too comfortable early in the game. The Johnnies have to be everywhere, disruptive, have to make the Minutemen think before they shoot.
Better communication/ passing. The turnovers in the second half were a real killer — not only did they kill possessions, but they killed confidence that the team knew how to play with each other. The Johnnies, on short rest, have to make better decisions.
Outside shooting. The 3/16 from beyond the arc will not help St. John’s a team that has struggled to generate offense driving to the basket. Whether it is the stars or a player like David Caraher, the Johnnies need to take and make deep shots.
20 minutes of hell. St. John’s does enough to win, 74-65, but also to raise questions.