St. John’s finishes their non-conference slate on Tuesday with a warm-up tilt against the Rider Broncs.
(At least we think that’s how it is going to go; with news that the University of Connecticut is now on pause, and that the Big East opener on Friday the 11th is to be rescheduled, who knows, maybe the Johnnies can slip in another game.)
For the Red Storm, this game could be a chance to correct the approach from the beginning of the Stony Brook win, the one that made the game a bit of a nail-biter for the first 18 minutes.
Can the Johnnies get all the players on track in this one? Or will they struggle for stretches again?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (4-1) vs. Rider Broncs (0-1)
When: Tuesday, December 8, 2020, 7:00 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena
TV: CBS Sports Network | online
Audio: St. John’s website provides free audio for the game.
Tickets: Nah. Unless you have become your cardboard cutout.
Last Meeting: St. John’s last defeated Rider in 1995, 79-69.
Rider, a perennial MAAC contender nestled in one of the most beautiful parts of New Jersey, has turned over almost the entire roster in the space of an offseason. Three seniors and two juniors left the program that could never get over the hump in the MAAC Conference Tournament, despite usually having a top-three seed.
(One of Rider’s players, Boston College’s Fred Scott, has already faced the Red Storm.)
In the past, Rider has played aggressive offensive basketball where they try to go through burly forwards, play a good amount of zone defense, and crash the offensive glass.
Now, coach Kevin Baggett is retooling on the fly behind sophomore guards Christian Ings (#0) and Allen Powell (#2), holdover forward Tyrel Bladen (#11), and also forward Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson (#10).
Newcomer Dwight Murray (#5) led the Broncs in their first game with 20 points, but that performance...
Look, there is only so much we can say about a team that got blown out by Syracuse by 35, a game where Cuse scored early and often. Grad transfer Rodney Henderson (#3), a decent outside shooter, got a number of shots up — since he will be counted on for scoring — but struggled with eight points on 10 shots.
Baggett’s takeaway was that the team needed to “compete”. He wants the team to have more of a bruising post presence like earlier Rider teams. From the Trentonian:
“We need a post presence or we’re going to be very perimeter oriented, which has not been our identity here,” Baggett said. “We got to be more in the paint because I always talk about points in the paint being very important. We got to be able establish that, and I don’t care if it’s Syracuse or St. John’s, we got to have a presence down there.”
Ings is the only real known quantity, a solid quick guard who deferred to his teammates last season. Ogemuno-Johnson has been an aggressive offensive rebounder in the past in limited minutes. Tyrel Bladen will be looked at as a potential post presence for the Broncs.
As for the newcomers, Dwight Murray comes with scoring and point guard expectations as a transfer from Incarnate Word. Rodney Henderson is 6’5” grad transfer from Cal State Northridge who scored 16 against Rider a couple of years ago, but missed last season with an injury.
Incoming junior Jeremiah Pope (#20) played at a Division II school and a junior college before arriving at Rider as a 6’4” scorer. Freshman forward Nehemiah Benson (#35) was recruited to be a versatile scorer at 6’7”. Freshman guard Jaelen McGlone (#13) was recruited as a shooter.
Keys to the Game
Don’t let them get comfortable inside the arc. The Johnnies need to make sure their defense has them looking to run their offense... and failing, Rider, a young squad, needs to be made to take rushed perimeter shots.
High energy Williams. Greg Williams Jr. has looked like the engine that makes the team get into a rhythm. His teammates have to find him, but Williams also has to spark the squad with the variety of little things he can do.
Smart ballhandling. Even in a game they should win, the Red Storm needs to take good care of the ball — from Posh Alexander all the way to forwards who tend to shoot once the ball touches their hands.
Prediction: St. John’s looks good in the win, 92-68.