The Johnnies had room for one more non-conference game, and they found WAC member Utah Valley to come east for a matchup.
It’s a surprise addition, but this is a game that should allow St. John’s to stay sharp after the win over Connecticut, and work on some issues that need to improve on — defensive rotation, roles, and turnovers.
St. John’s has only lost once in non-conference play, to BYU — also from the state of Utah (and about 10 minutes driving from Utah Valley University). The Johnnies hope to add to this season’s win total on their way to a winning record.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (8-7, 2-6 Big East) vs. Utah Valley Wolverines (5-5, 3-0 Western Athletic Conference)
When: Saturday, January 23, 2021, 4:00 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: FS1 | FoxSportsOnline
Last matchup: Never happened.
Scouting Utah Valley
Fun fact: Utah Valley’s head coach is Mark Madsen, two-time NBA champion Laker and former Stanford player, noted for his dancing. He was also a very solid player in college, a former head coach in the NBA G-League, and an NBA assistant.
As far as the team itself, the Utah Valley Wolverines have five wins, but two are over non Division I teams; the other three wins are against conference teams, Seattle and Cal Baptist. Their loss against Utah saw them come from 15 points behind to within one, though they lost.
The Wolverines have high-end rebounding skills, play fast, draw fouls, and assist on many of their shots. Behind center Fardaws Aimaq (#11), who leads the country in rebounding totals, the Wolverines have been a top-30 defensive rebounding team. The 6’11” Aimaq, a transfer from Mercer, is joined by forward Evan Cole, a 6’10” big who leads the team in dunks. Both can shoot outside the paint as well. Cole is a transfer from Georgia Tech who saw minutes in each of his three years with the Yellowjackets.
On the downside, the Wolverines do not force turnovers (choosing to defend in the paint), but also do not shoot many shots from outside the arc (nor do they shoot well from deep as a team) and they turn the ball over.
Blaze Nield (#3) and Trey Woodbury (#4) are passing guards; Woodbury has been a very good scorer from the line, inside the arc and outside the arc, while Nield, a BYU transfer, is more of a table-setter and three-point shooter. Woodbury, a UNLV transfer, also commits quite a few turnovers per game.
Woodbury and wing Jamison Overton (#22) have solid strokes inside the arc. Starting guard Jordan Brinson has missed the past three games, cutting into the Utah Valley depth. Guards Le’Tre Darthard (#1) and Jaden McClanahan (#10) have gotten minutes but have been fairly quiet on offense.
Keys to the Game
Force turnovers. A team this big and this focused on scoring inside the arc leaves a lot of areas where they can be hurried and double-teamed with impunity. The quickness of Posh Alexander and Julian Champagnie should be able to create miscues.
Hit the shots. St. John’s has managed to stay with some teams by scoring, but that scoring has been inconsistent. Can the Johnnies take good shots against height, or will they drift into long two-pointers instead of finding lanes and moving the ball for open threes?.
Defensive effort. The idea of today’s game should be to refine the defensive energy and concepts for the Red Storm and get ready for the last month and a half of the regular season. The team needs reps and work; and we should expect to see a few new combinations, and some players get more of a chance to run.
St. John’s gets off to the races, even without offensive rebounds, winning 82-70.