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St. John’s showing one-half defense in recent games

As the Red Storm head into the Big East Tournament, a point of concern is the faltering defense in the second halves of games recently.

NCAA Basketball: Butler at St. John Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

After the game against the Xavier Musketeers, St. John’s third-straight loss to end the season, Justin Simon pointed out an issue for the Red Storm — perhaps the key to what’s been ailing the Johnnies of late as they head into the Big East Tournament.

“It’s really been our defense... The activity level and getting everybody involved has to get better. We’re at our best when we defend and are out and running.”

At first blush, the clear disadvantage for the Red Storm seems to be size or some lack of scoring.

But it turns out defensive player of the year Simon is very correct. In fact, the team’s the defense in the second halves of games, since Seton Hall (and including that game against the Pirates, where a big lead shrunk into an overtime game).

Defenses in the second halves of the last four games:

Norman Rose

What you see here is a team giving up .20 points per possession (or 20 points per 100 possessions, or about seven points in a 35 possession half) more on defense in the better games... and a whopping 60 or 70 points per possession more per 100 in the worse games — 21 to 24 points worse.

That is a wild swing of defense.

While second-chance opportunities hurt St. John’s, the real change is in the scoring inside the arc.

  • Seton Hall improved from 41% to 55% on twos from half to half.
  • Xavier, at Carnesecca, increased from 62% to 67% on twos.
  • DePaul improved from 40% to 79% on twos.
  • Xavier went from 47% to 78% inside the arc.

Then again, in three of the games, the scoring outside the arc also improved dramatically.

  • Seton Hall went from 0% to 42% on threes.
  • Xavier at Carnesecca went from 35% to 43% on threes, taking fewer in the second half as a percentage of shots (57% 3PA in first half, 37% 3PA in second).
  • DaPaul stepped up from 25% to 56% on threes.
  • Xavier in Cincinnati did not improve from outside the arc, shooting 44% in the first half and 40% in the second, on fewer treys.

Both Seton Hall and DePaul drastically reduced their turnovers, too.

So... maybe the defense in second halves is overall “bad”. Certainly, the team seems to lose contain on opposing guards, whether for shots or penetration opportunities.

Something needs to change, a fresh approach, for tomorrow’s night’s Big east Tournament opening round game against DePaul at 9:30 PM. Game preview to come tonight.