It’s been a few weeks of a break for the St. John’s Red Storm, and the players are back from visiting family to get back on the court and pull together for the second month of Big East play.
The beginning of the season showed some flaws in the Johnnies — a defense that was unable to create the planned chaos, was also permissive on points given up, and delivered uneven performances. After a three-game losing streak, the Red Storm won their first Big East win.
But after almost two weeks off since that win, are the Red Storm able to recreate the play that brought them to that win?
DePaul comes to Queens on a two-game losing streak, and missing some players from what they believed they would have going into the season. But their athleticism, shooting, and the Johnnies’ ability to give away points for stretches can conspire to make what could be a win into a loss to start the new year.
How will St. John’s fare tomorrow? What do the Johnnies need to watch out for? More, below.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (6-4, 1-3) vs. DePaul Blue Demons (1-2, 0-2 Big East)
When: Saturday, January 2, 2021, 12:00 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: FS1 | online
Recent history: St. John’s has won the last three matchups against the DePaul Blue Demons.
The Blue Demons, thanks to COVID protocols, waited a long time — 28 days — to get on the court and play a college basketball game. So what we know about the Blue Demons is limited; though we do know they lost talented forward Paul Reed to the NBA.
From the possible available players, DePaul is missing important rotation players from last season Jaylen Butz (out for personal reasons) and Markeese Jacobs (missing after a knee injury from last season). The Demons also missed starting guard Oscar Lopez, Jr. after a knee injury suffered against Providence in the Demons’ Big East opener.
On offense, expect the Demons to try to run up and down the court for easy scores, and — especially given the guard-heavy available personnel — shoot threes. They will also attack off the drive with their physical players. DePaul’s ability to do so is often disrupted by their turnovers. The Demons have not drawn fouls this year, but that may be a quirk of the early schedule.
On defense, the Demons will show a matchup zone, keep teams out of the paint (or without a clear path into the paint), and have had poor defensive rebounding. For St. John’s, there will be open threes at times, and driving into the paint will be a question mark in half court sets.
The Demons’ approach on offense starts with their preseason First Team All-Big East point guard, Charlie Moore (#11), who spends a lot of time on the ball. He is a good passer, but often dribbles himself into adventure and mistakes. Moore can pull for his shot inside the arc with some creativity and also score from beyond the arc.
Wing Romeo Weems (#1) is a talented forward who can change the game. If he’s on, he can get to the rim with quickness. He has been turnover prone on his drives and, like Moore, sometimes will dribble himself deep into the paint with no outlet. Wings Javon Freeman-Liberty (#4) and Darious Hall (#13) both have the quickness and ability to dunk, especially in transition.
Up front, sophomore center Nick Ongenda (#14) is a 6’11” slim big man with solid athleticism, offensively effective near the rim. He and NY-bred Manhattan transfer Pauly Paulicap (#33) provide a lot of shot blocking, but neither is a particularly good defensive rebounder; opportunities will be available for active bigs who can get between them and the ball. Both are good defenders and also prolific foulers.
In the backcourt, NY native — and Monmouth transfer guard — Ray Salnave (#10) has gotten some starts with the Demons. He is a tough physical defender who does not back down, rebounds on defense very well, and often takes ill-advised shots. At Monmouth, he drew a lot of fouls with his all-out physical play.
Guard Kobe Elvis (#3) is a 6’2” guard from the Toronto area who ,despite the turnovers, has earned some time on the floor. He’s been a solid shooter from deep. Division II transfer Courvoisier McCauley was a prolific scorer who hit 43% of his threes while at his former school, Lincoln Memorial.
Keys to the Game
Force turnovers. The Red Storm’s defense works best when getting deflections, forcing mistakes, and creating live ball opportunities to score. The Blue Demons turn the ball over often, rushing the move the ball up court. The Red Storm need to take advantage.
Make them shoot in traffic. The Blue Demons are always willing to shoot. On open threes, they are fairly effective. on runners in traffic and step back jumpers against a raised hand, they are less effective.
Connect with each other. The Red Storm have struggled with late turnovers and miscommunication. And when the team is playing well, connected with each other, the players are better than when they are trying to score on their own, off the dribble.
St. John’s should win this one, 84-75.