St. John’s heads back out on the road to face Providence in a late game in an arena where the Red Storm have seen little success. The new roster will need to bring new energy to play Ed Cooley’s side, which has dusted off some early season struggles to rattle off a number of wins with their squad.
The losses to Providence last season jeopardized the Red Storm’s NCAA Tournament hopes. This year’s Friar team is a year older and, recently, has been far better than they were early in the season.
Can St. John’s put together enough shooting and enough disruption to change their fortunes in Providence?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (12-5, 1-3 Big East) vs. Providence Friars (10-7, 3-1 Big East)
When: Wednesday, January 15th, 8:30 PM ET
Where: Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, RI
TV: FS1 | FoxSportsGo
Audio: St. John’s website provides free audio for the game. The stream can be found by clicking here.
Tickets: Providence has tickets for $17 and up.
Last Season in Dunkin’ Donuts: St. John’s lost 78-59 in Providence as the Friars pounded the Red Storm inside. This was the game where Marcellus Earlington took a few tossaway minutes, messed around and dropped 10 points. It was a strong hint that he could be productive if he played.
Providence fell behind early to Butler and could not claw back at home in Providence. Coach Ed Cooley felt they did not play with enough energy in their 70-58 loss on Friday to the Bulldogs.
You may remember such late-season games last year as “Providence beats the tar out of St. John’s” or the reprise, “Providence beats the tar out of St. John’s again in the same manner”. Mustpaha Heron missed the first game, in Madison Square Garden, but the fact remains: St. John’s has lost their last five contests against the Friars and eight of their last 10 matchups.
The Friars have maintained their style of strong defense with middling offense, but this year’s version of the Friars are taking and making more three-pointers than the last two editions. They crash the offensive glass solidly, block shots, and force turnovers.
In fact, Ed Cooley’s Friars are leading the league in turnover margin & racking up assists, along with leading the Big East in steals.
For St. John’s, the other factor is that the Friars posses some significant size. That size and physicality was a significant factor in last year’s losses. Alpha Diallo (#11), a wing, and Nate Watson (#0), a center, powered through the Red Storm defense in both games last season. Diallo, a senior from New York, is a very good defensive player and a strong athlete; he is an excellent rebounder, an all-around glue guy.
Watson, who missed time with injury and now comes off the bench, is a better offensive rebounder than a defensive rebounder. He’s got post moves and strength inside. He has committed over five fouls per 40 minutes (and over seven fouls per 40 in Big East play). Kalif Young (#13) is a 6’9” senior who provides strong post defense and scoring inside, though he generally takes the shots that are given to him; he won’t generate a lot of offense.
Emmitt Holt, a senior forward, is a tough, tough player on the glass and inside the arc. He can shoot jumpers out to the three point line, and gets up with enough anticipation to block shots despite being 6’7”.
This season, guard David Duke (#5) is hitting 46% of his threes but taking more shots inside the arc. He is one of the Friars’ two prolific passers, and gets to the line as well.
The other prolific passer is Luwane Pipkins (#12). The guard is quick but also can be a bit shot happy; he will pull up and shoot a three in transition. Providence needs him to be aggressive, but not ridiculous.
Note that Butler handled Providence when UMass grad transfer Luwane Pipkins, the current Providence point guard, had 0 assists.
AJ Reeves (#10) and Maliek White (#4) add more scoring punch. While Reeves hasn’t found consistency in his outside shot, he is picking up a lot of steals (and he is a tall 6’6” perimeter player). White has hit his stride in Big East play, connecting on 46% of his threes while also getting to the line and passing well.
Wing Greg Gantt (#1) started two games; he plays some minutes off the bench. He came in with some accolades and can shoot.
Keys to the Game
Match the physicality. St. John’s lacks the kind of heft inside that Providence possesses. The Johnnies will need to match the physical style of the Friars, battle for rebounds and loose balls, and not be cowed by the grind of the game or the lack of calls, especially on the road. Marcellus Earlington, Julian Champagnie, Damien Sears and Josh Roberts all need to be ready to fight.
Make smart passes. Providence forces turnovers with a mix of jumping passing lanes and man-to-man pressure. The Johnnies’ passers need to see the pass and make crisp connections between players — no lazy passes on the perimeter from Nick Rutherford or Greg Williams, Jr.
Disrupt. Can the Red Storm keep Pipkins and Duke flummoxed? Can they get easy runouts for scores for Rasheem Dunn? Can they snatch the ball on inbounds plays? Can Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa shoot the Friars out of packed-in defenses? That’s how St. John’s wins games, and they will need to bring the A effort tonight in Providence.
Here’s hoping the Friars, who were at the bottom of the Big East standings last season when the teams met, don’t dispatch the Johnnies with such relative ease. Here’s saying that maybe this Red Storm team has its confidence back, and wins, 71-69.