St. John’s continues on the road with a game against Creighton in Omaha. The Bluejays, ranked #7 overall and touting five double-figure scorers. will be a tough task, especially given the way they raced away from the Red Storm’s best effort in Queens just under a month ago.
Now, the Red Storm have played and split two additional games. Can the Red Storm take the changes they have made in the interim and knock off the Bluejays? Or will losing four out of five take some of the belief from the team?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (6-5, 1-4) vs. #7 Creighton Bluejays (9-2, 5-1 Big East)
When: Saturday, January 9, 2021, 12:00 PM
Where: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE
TV: FS1 | online
Recent history: St. John’s has won three of their last five against the Bluejays, but is 1-8 overall on the road in Omaha. The win came in 2019.
Last matchup: Creighton won 94-76 in Queens.
What can we take away from the last matchup with Creighton?
St. John’s was decent and bothersome for much of the game, but gave up a lot of points to Creighton, many in the paint. In particular freshman center Ryan Kalkenbrenner reached a career high of 15 points, and has not scored in double digits since.
The last matchup against Creighton finished with a number of problems — the defensive rotations were poor, the Johnnies could not force turnovers, and they did not manage to generate free throws. But Julian Champagnie was sharp from beyond the arc, Posh Alexander had some really good moments, Arnaldo Toro had some good defensive moments, and Dylan Addae-Wusu had a career-high 12 points.
St. John’s was very competitive until a 22-4 run overwhelmed St. John’s.
But they had been chasing the game for a while. In that game, and in the Georgetown and Xavier game since, the Red Storm’s weakness inside has been glaring. Opponents feats on offensive rebounds, getting around Isaih Moore, Marcellus Earlington and Julian Champagnie inside.
Arnaldo Toro has some okay moments on the floor defensively as Mike Anderson has turned to him in the last couple of games. Toro, however, has not taken an official field goal in 29 minutes over two games, both starts; that leaves the team as less of an offensive threat overall. Josh Roberts saw eight minutes between Creighton and Georgetown and did not play in the game against Xavier. He is also not an aggressive offensive player, but can crash the offensive glass.
St. John’s has to find a way to turn the tables inside, is the point. In the previous game, yes Creighton was Creighton — they move the ball well, shoot from all over the floor, defend well enough to make the opponent make mistakes.
But what was a surprise was that a freshman seven-footer made the Johnnies shade inside defensively, despite Kalkbrenner looking like he might blow over from a Queens wind if the Carenesecca side doors opened.
The defensive communication, decisions to “front” or defend him from behind must be sharper, and generally, St. John’s needs to show pride in the paint.
Creighton forward Damien Jefferson has been sharp recently. He was two assists from a triple double against St. John’s.
Keys to the Game
Rotate, react, communicate. Make the Bluejays move the ball and work for their points, not just ease into the paint for scores. Some disruption and deflections would be good to put the Johnnies in place for an upset, as well. The transition defense has to smart, sharp, and look for run outs.
Find the rhythm. The Red Storm really missed good performances from Greg Williams, Jr. and Marcellus Earlington, who both struggled on both ends of the floor. Those two, along with Posh Alexander, are best positioned to right the ship and take pressure off of Julian Champagnie, who has been solid.
Keep their defense honest. Teams have given St. John’s three-pointers to shoot in the half court. The Johnnies are shooting 34% on those shots in conference play — which isn’t bad. They need to keep that up, and engage shooter Vince Cole more in the offense.
A competitive 82-77 loss to the Bluejays. St. John’s was out of sync against Xavier and still almost bothered them into an ugly loss. Creighton is better, but maybe the Red Storm is improving.