But those flaws were real earlier in the season; the Red Storm shot well enough and disrupted well enough to cover up the deficiencies.
With the whole squad hopefully back (Greg Williams, Jr. sat out the last game with a concussion), the Johnnies need to put together a “vintage” performance — you know, like from a month ago — and send the visiting Blue Demons back to Chicago frustrated about mistakes and lost chances.
More high energy defending, swarming in the paint. More from Mustapha Heron. Some made threes. St. John’s fans are hungry for all of those; can the Johnnies deliver?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (11-5, 0-3 Big East) vs. DePaul Blue Demons (12-3, 0-2)
When: Saturday, January 11th, 12:00 PM ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
TV: FSN or YES | FoxSportsGo
Audio: St. John’s website provides free audio for the game. The stream can be found by clicking here.
Tickets: Tickets for the Red Storm’s first Big East game in Madison Square Garden go for $40 or more.
Last Season in MSG: St. John’s salvaged their NCAA Tournament berth with a win over DePaul in the Big East Tournament. The Johnnies had lost two to DePaul in February in bruising fashion.
Last Big East game: St. John’s got eviscerated by Georgetown in the first half on Wednesday, a game where the shooting woes were compounded by some poor performances individually. They fell 87-66.
Last Saturday, DePaul let Providence’s Luwane Pipkins and Maliek White get loose from outside the arc. The Demons struggled with shooting and turnovers, and fell 66-65 to the visiting, possibly resurgent, Providence team.
The Blue Demons have a good deal of size, some talented new players, and a real strength in the paint. Like last year, expect the Blue Demons to look for opportunities inside the arc first (and second), for offensive rebounds, and to force steals on defense. They are a top-10 team in percentage of shots that they block and percentage of steals they generate.
This year, at least early on, DePaul has been almost for real. Despite an early season hiccup against Buffalo (coached by the visiting Jim Whitesell, former St. John’s assistant coach and also former Loyola-Chicago head coach), the Blue Demons drew attention with wins over Iowa, Texas Tech and Minnesota.
The Demons have lost two straight, both at home in Chicago. The problem has been, in part, that their two main guards who shoot have missed the mark badly, shooting 4/26 from deep. They have been slowed down by Providence and Seton Hall, and their defensive hallmark is beginning to look like a fluke.
That hallmark early in the season was that opponents took a lot of threes, but only connected on 30% of those shots. Big East teams have shot nearly 39%, and the style of defense the Demons play — playing back, covering the paint, limiting transition opportunities — is similar to how Xavier defends. That style allows a good shooting team with ballhandlers who can take threes in transition opportunities to get hot, like Providence’s Luwane Pipkins did.
Watch out for the interior players. Paul Reed (#4) is a talented big with an inside out game, excellent quickness and coordination and a nice touch. He shoots 52% inside the arc, 85% from the line, forces steals and blocks shots at a high rate. The Johnnies may need to double him; he scored 18 and pulled down 11 rebounds in the first game between St. John’s and DePaul last season, but only averaged seven points per game in their last two meetings.
Jaylen Butz (#2) is solid, and does more of the dirty work of boxing out and chasing loose shots. He picks up more free throw attempts but shoots under 50% from the line. Freshman Nick Ongenda (#14) is 6’11” and can really run the floor.
Romeo Weems (#1) is a talented freshman who has slotted in nicely, forcing steals, blocking shots, shooting 52% inside the arc and 39% from deep on limited spot-up attempts. Also at wing will be a familiar face to Mike Anderson, former Arkansas player Darious Hall (#13). He’s a high-effort offensive rebounder who has missed many shots this season, but presents a long defensive challenge.
St. John’s will see a lot of point guard Charlie Moore (#11), a Chicago native who looks like Malik Boothe (at least in the cheeks). Moore has played at California and Kansas before coming home. He is not shy about launching a jump shot. He has connected on 33% of his attempts from deep and 42% inside the arc. He’s had a number of haphazard games, include eight turnovers in the loss against Buffalo, and eight more in the loss against Seton Hall. He also shot 2/12 in his last two games from beyond the arc.
Jalen Coleman-Lands (#5) is mostly an outside shooter, but he shot 2/14 in his last two games from deep. Coleman-Lands is not afraid of the big shot. While he’s not as quick or active as last year’s Demon star Max Strus, he does find open spots for shots.
Devin Gage (#3), a starter last year, provides more guard play and toughness for the Blue Demons. He can hit shots from deep, but has been a physical backup point guard, focused on defense, this season. Chicago guard Markeese Jacobs (#0) has spend the last two games on the bench, as has Oscar Lopez (#15), another freshman guard.
Keys to the Game
Steal and capitalize. DePaaul can be sloppy with the ball, and when they make mistakes, St. John’s has to make them pay. Keep attacking the basket, keep moving into good spaces, set the feet if needed, and make those shots.
Rebound hard. The Red Storm have a size disadvantage in most games, but this game, the rebounding disadvantage could be stark. Julian Champagnie, Josh Roberts and Marcellus Earlington need a strong game banging on the glass at both ends to keep the Demons off balance.
Keep the defensive feet moving. St. John’s has to play hard, with no let up on defense. If they’re going to trap, they need to commit to it. If they are going to defend one-on-one, they have to react to their players’ moves. And when the ball goes into the paint, they need to get the hands up and deflect the Blue Demons’ movement of the ball.
St. John’s plays with a higher level of effort, gets into the Blue Demons’ heads, makes them soul search. Johnnies win on late free throws, 74-70.