St. John’s has been developing their team concept.
Tonight, that concept will be tested. Star Mustapha Heron is likely to be out for the game, resting in hopes of competing against Arizona on Saturday night on the west coast. For St. John’s, that loss is huge; Heron is a player who breaks runs, shoots big shots, draws fouls driving from the wing.
The team does not have a ready replacement for Heron’s skill set, but Rasheem Dunn, Greg Williams, Jr. and David Caraher have a chance to step in to the role. Can Dunn keep the ball moving and score efficiently? Can Williams aggressively look to score instead of being a passive participator? Can Caraher put together a higher-impact performance?
(Can Marcellus Earlington just go out and beast mode all over Albany, making those questions moot?)
The fans will learn something about the Red Storm’s depth this evening.
Take an afternoon nap before this one, tip off is late. Maybe it gets them on schedule for the next — let’s not look ahead...
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (9-2) vs. Albany Great Danes (6-6)
When: Wednesday, December 18th, 8:30 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 as low as $8 by clicking here.
Last Meeting: St. John’s last faced the Great Danes when the Harlem Renaissance cultural period was alive and well. St. John’s won, 25-21, and we assume a slow-moving steam train took one of the teams back to their home college.
Famous alumni from the University at Albany
Ed Burns (actor), Brian Lehrer (news talk show host), Frank Whaley (Pulp Fiction, Luke Cage), DB Woodside (actor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24), Lee Zedlin (US Rep, Long Island), Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (novelist, Friday Black), Harvey Milk (politician), Anne Case (economist), Steve Guttenberg (actor, Police Academy)
Under Will Brown, head coach at Albany since 2001, the Great Danes have established a strong level of consistency in the America East. The team has an Australian talent pipeline and experience on the sideline. On the floor, they want a slow, deliberate game; a fast-paced, back and forth contest isn’t in their wheelhouse like it might be for Central Connecticut or even Saint Peter’s.
Injuries have taken a toll this season. They have missed freshman Sam Shafer for much of the season with a shoulder injury; freshman forward Mitch Doherty has nursed an ankle injury; incoming transfer Jojo Anderson may miss the entire season after knee surgery; sophomore shooter Antonio Rizzuto has been in and out of the lineup with an Achilles injury; Trey Hutcherson has been limited with an ankle injury; star forward Adam Lulka missed some games with an ankle sprain, and is limited in practice, though he should play against St. John’s.
Other than that, the team is healthy.
Sometimes to the consternation of the coach, the Great Danes will shoot a lot of three-pointers. They do not press on defense, preferring to get back on D and try to clog the paint, prevent driving from the perimeter. The Danes rebound well on the defensive end and won’t crash the offensive boards, mostly. They are very good at not fouling opponents.
The mainstays on offense, just as last year, are the guards Cameron Healy (#11) and Ahmad Clark (#4).
Healy, a 6’3” Australian who shoots 95% from the free throw line, is a strongly-built guard with good balance. A 38% shooter from deep, he is fairly consistent from outside the arc, hitting three or more three-pointers in every game except for a loss to Manhattan. He has hit a three in every game he has played, 42 in total in his second season. A decent passer, he can also play the passing lanes on defense.
Clark, who shoots 82% from the line, is a quicker guard with the ability to be spectacular and the ability to go 3/14 from the floor. Clark is more of a ballhawk and can get past defenders going to the rim. When he’s good, he can be a challenge for the Johnnies.
Also in the backcourt is Antonio Rizzuto (#0), a shooter with a quick release. Rizzuto is scratching the surface of his game; with his quickness, he could be more of a passer, more of a defensive presence. He tends to spot up for shots.
Forward Adam Lulka (#14) is a solid forward who can stretch defenses, but has looked to be more of a paint presence this season. Another Australian, he is a steady presence who doesn’t turn the ball over. He can get nicked with ticky-tack fouls.
Kendall Lauderdale (#54) provides some steady heft inside at 6’8”. Grad transfer (from Savannah State) Romani Hansen (#32) started earlier in the year, but has seen less time recently. He is willing to shoot from outside the arc. A slimmer forward, he has more of an ability to run and block shots.
Australian Brent Hank (#10) is a big body who provides some early minutes, but will generally give way to more mobile forwards by the middle of the first half. Sasha French (#33) gets spot minutes. A mobile forward, his skill set and strength is developing.
On the wing, 6’5” forward Trey Hutcherson (#2) has earned minutes as a freshman. He’s a tough, physical player who has shot well from outside the arc (36%). He draws fouls, competes on defense and looks like the prototype for the physical toughness Will Brown wants to see from his team. Malachi de Sousa (#1) may be the team’s best athlete. When in rhythm, the 6’6” sophomore can elevate above the rim on both ends. His jump shot is a work in progress.
Keys to the Game
Keep the shooters passing. St. John’s will work to confuse the Great Danes and turn them over. But the most important thing for the Johnnies to do is keep the ball out of the hands of Albany’s most dangerous scorers, Cam Healy and Ahmad Clark. If they comfortably catch-and-shoot, the game could get more interesting than it should be.
Draw fouls/ keep swimming. Albany will make outside shots look tantalizing, but the Red Storm have to keep the ball moving and find cracks to attack — and draw fouls.
Keep Albany off the line (and off the glass). Albany doesn’t draw a lot of foul shots, but the Johnnies can get a little foul happy. St. John’s especially with Mustapha Heron out, need to make sure they communicate, cover each other well, and avoid fouling.
St. John’s handles this one going away, lets Albany back in, but wins by a bit. Johnnies win 81-62.