Coming off of a loss in the home finale, Chris Mullin’s St. John’s squad take a trip to the corner of Cermak and Indiana to face DePaul at Wintrust Arena.
The Johnnies need a win (or two) to be very likely to make the NCAA Tournament... but DePaul, who didn’t roll over in the first game, is not likely to oblige in this one either. The Demons crushed the Johnnies in the paint, getting 45 of 79 points from two interior players. (If DePaul hadn’t missed 11 free throws, their advantage would have been bigger than 79-71.)
Yes, Shamorie Ponds was missing then. But Mustapha Heron may be missing now, and the real issue is that St. John’s, even with the full complement of personnel, struggle against physical teams with talented paint presences.
St. John’s has at least two one more chances to solve their season-long issue of defending the paint before the season ends.
This is one they really need to have.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (20-9, 8-8 Big East) vs DePaul Blue Demons (13-13, 5-10 Big East)
Where: Wintrust Arena (capacity: 10,387)
When: Sunday, March 3, 12:00 PM
TV: FS1 | Fox Sports Online
Audio: 970 WNYM AM | TuneIn Radio
Odds: St. John’s, -1
Not much has changed with DePaul. Freshman guard Flynn Cameron, from New Zealand, is seeing more time on the floor. He’s a solid shooter and will add another backcourt option for the Demons.
For St. John’s, there is more time given to the bench. Josh Roberts and Marcellus Earlington have seen minutes in the last three games (and double-digit minutes in two of the last three). Greg Williams Jr. has also seen at least nine minutes in the past three games.
St. John’s has had struggles defending inside the arc, of course, but DePaul has been worse defending inside. But DePaul, since the last matchup, has shot 36% from deep, while St. John’s has shot 32% from deep. DePaul has been a top-40 team nationally in getting their own offensive misses, while the Johnnies have struggled on the glass.
Keys to the Game
Do better inside the paint. The Johnnies need to slow down Paul Reed and Femi Olujobi. Olujobi had his best offensive game of the season against St. John’s. Sedee Keita, Josh Roberts and others need to slow him down. The team, as a whole, needs to do better and making the opponent possessions end.
Find some offensive flow. St. John’s is going to see size, physicality, and zone defenses. Whether it comes from getting hot from deep, attacking in transition, or just good, intelligent drives, St. John’s needs to find a cohesive, team-oriented offense to keep the pressure on teams like DePaul.
Win the turnover battle. Deflections and live ball steals will be key to getting the Demons out of their packed-in defenses, where penetration can be near-impossible against their rotating interior players.
Going out on a limb to call this a bounceback win, but a close one. 79-77 St. John’s.