The Red Storm started the year with a resounding win over a high-level Marquette team. On that night, it seemed like the Johnnies were on their way to competing with the top of the league — and maybe, just maybe, could win the conference.
Since that point, however, St. John’s has won three games, lost five, and has questions to answer.
Tonight’s game is a tough task, likely the toughest one left on the schedule, with the home game against Villanova a close second. Win this game, and the Red Storm are even in conference play, with up to four high-level wins. And a win on the road against Marquette, where the Golden Eagles are 13-0 at home this season, builds confidence for a February surge.
But Marquette, celebrating their legendary coach Al McGuire (who played at St. John’s, graduating in 1951), are on an 8-game winning streak, and are 14-0 at home.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (16-6, 4-5 Big East) at #10/ #9 Marquette Golden Eagles (19-3, 8-1 Big East)
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI (17,500)
When: Tuesday, February 5th, 8:00 PM
TV: FS1 | FoxSportsGo
Audio: 570 WMCA | TuneIn Radio
Odds: Marquette, -6.5
Last meeting: St. John’s knocked off Marquette at Carnesecca Arena by 20 points, holding Markus Howard to 8 points, his season-low when he plays at least 10 minutes. It was impressive.
Rankings & School Notes
Last season final KenPom Ranking: 53 | Current KenPom Ranking: 28
School size: 11,426 (8,335 undergraduates)
Places to eat & drink in Milwaukee
Having lived in the midwest, I can tell you Milwaukee is a delicious place to pack on some pounds with a smile with beer and meats (and even vegetarian food).
I reached out to a dear friend who is a librarian, researcher and a beer aficionado, who suggests a few places to check out for food an beer. Everything is a short drive from the basketball arena.
Uber Tap Room & Cheese Bar [brewery, super close to arena]
Izzy Hops Swig & Nosh [craft beers & specialty bourbons]
Eagle Park [brewery with food]
Mobcraft [beer only]
Comet Cafe [comfort food, coffee, beer]
Black Husky [beer only]
Cafe Hollander [Belgian beer & food, bloody mary’s]
Since the teams last met...
Personnel-wise, Marquette is much the same, though Matt Heldt — who didn’t play in the first game and may not play in this one, for matchup reasons — has seen stints on the floor, including a 20-minute run in a close win over Xavier.
Theo John, who struggled with foul trouble in the first game, has been a defensive star for the Golden Eagles. At 6’9”, he blocks a solid number of shots and grabs offensive rebounds. He still commits a lot of fouls.
Ed Morrow and Joseph Chartouny, who both reached double figures against St. John’s in points, have not reached such scoring heights since. Both have been more limited in their minutes.
The offensive engines remain the same: Markus Howard is a devastating scorer, despite St. John’s strong defense on him the last outing. He scored 53 against Creighton, and with the exception of a game where he was injured three minutes in, has scored 23 or more points in each game since St. John’s.
Joey Hauser has had some quiet games, but is a strong defensive rebounder, scores, and can even drive a little given an open lane. Older brother Sam Hauser is more of a spot-up shooter, but very effective in that role.
Scouting the matchup
The thing that makes Marquette vulnerable to St. John’s is that, like Marquette, they are willing to run with the Johnnies. A willingness to run without a strong dedication to stopping the Red Storm in transition leads to a strong Red Storm performance.
Watching the Duke plan of attack in the blowout — picking up and slowing down Shamorie Ponds, trapping him with double teams, running off of misses — is a nice idea. But other teams have thrown doubles at Ponds, only to see him split the players or draw fouls. The transition speed of Duke off of turnovers and misses is also unmatched.
The Georgetown game plan will be instructive, as well — stop Ponds in transition, defend the rim, clog the paint but sag off of Justin Simon and let him shoot.
Expecting great shooting fro the Red Storm should cause some pause; shooting can come and go. The Red Storm can go hot and cold, based in part on fatigue and shot selection. As a team that tends toward the jump shot, the Johnnies do not get to the foul line often, which would be an effective way to attack the Golden Eagle depth.
St. John’s has to deliver the goods on defense, as well, slowing Howard with whatever voodoo they do (read: length and fast close-outs). The Johnnies need their road shooting from playing at Villanova and at Georgetown, not the shooting woes from Butler and Duke.
The Golden Eagles will be better prepared to take their opportunities — to attack in the paint with their bigs, to slash to the basket on sloppy closeouts, to try and jump lazy passes.
The Red Storm will likely play more of the bench, Bryan Trimble Jr., Greg Williams Jr. and Sedee Keita. Can they come up big tonight?
Keys to the Game
Disrupt the Howard machine. St. John’s did a good job making other players on Marquette have to pick up the scoring load in the first game. They key is to make Howard miss shots or give the ball up — but not to one of the good shooters (a Hauser) on the team, in position to work. Expect new wrinkles to get Howard free.
Shoot well. The Johnnies have a chance to show their ability to move the ball, move themselves, and attack the rim in this game. Yes, Marquette has fearsome bigs, but they are not the size of Duke or the interior heft of Georgetown or Butler. The Red Storm have to mix up the offensive attack and get buckets.
Don’t get erased on the glass. Marquette doesn’t force turnovers, but if they get in trouble, they will attack the glass with Theo John and Ed Morrow. St. John’s needs LJ Figueroa to be very good rebounding, and Sedee Keita can help by providing a barrier. The team needs to get on the boards and keep the Golden Eagles to one shot each possession.
While I strongly feel that St. John’s knows how to play Marquette, a motivated Marquette team with the home crowd on their side is a tough out. I think the Johnnies will come close. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled off the win, but the Red Storm haven’t yet been consistent. Marquette has been consistent. 84-79 win for the Golden Eagles.