Tomorrow, St. John’s basketball will have their first big challenge of the 2021-22 season as they take on the Indiana Hoosiers in a true road game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Part of the Big East/ Big Ten challenge known as the Gavitt Games, the Johnnies will face preseason All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis and an experienced lineup in an intimidating arena.
The Hoosiers are coached by former Indiana standout player and longtime NBA coach Mike Woodson, who has made some serious improvements to the Indiana defense that have shown against the inferior opponents they have played so far. (You may remember Mike Woodson with the Knicks.)
The Johnnies have had a couple good wins against weaker teams, and Indiana will be a good early test to see how this group does against a team with a higher KenPom ranking than them. The Red Storm have had no trouble scoring points in their first couple of games, so the Hoosier defense should provide a good challenge and test of depth.
The game will be in familiar environs for two of the new Johnnies. Aaron Wheeler has had success with Purdue against in-state rival Indiana, going 6-0 against the Hoosiers. Montez Mathis is 5-1 against Indiana while playing at Rutgers.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (2-0) vs Indiana Hoosiers (2-0)
When: Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 9:00 PM
Where: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana (capacity: 17,222)
Last Matchup: The 14th-ranked Hoosiers beat the Red Storm 83-73 on November 24, 2015 in the Maui Invitational.
As previously mentioned, Indiana is ranked ahead of the Johnnies in KenPom, coming in at 36 compared to the Red Storm’s ranking of 47. The Hoosiers won both of their first matchups of the season, defeating Eastern Michigan 68-62 and Northern Illinois 85-49. Indiana is receiving the 27th-most votes in the AP poll; St. John’s, with 4 votes, is receiving the 41st most.
Under Mike Woodson, the Hoosiers have gotten better defensively, keeping opponents out of the paint, rotating well, and using quick hands to bother ballhandlers. The offense is a work in progress, and last year’s team struggled to shoot from outside the arc. On the young season, this year’s team is shooting 25% from deep, worse than last year.
But if Indiana gets hot offensively in a game, they should be able to combine that with good defense to win.
The Hoosiers are led by first-team All-Big Ten 6-9 forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who is the tallest player in the Indiana starting lineup and the focal point of their offense. Last year, he averaged 19 points and nine rebounds in 27 games. A preseason All-American this year and a Third-Team All-American last season, Jackson-Davis has started off well this year, averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds in his first two games.
Another starter in Indiana’s frontcourt is 6-8 senior forward Race Thompson, who averaged nine points and six rebounds last year and has averaged eight points and 10 rebounds to start this season.
Rounding out the Hoosiers’ starting frontcourt is 6-7 senior forward Miller Kopp. Kopp played three years at Northwestern before transferring to Indiana for the 2021-22 season, averaging 10 points and three rebounds with the Wildcats, making 1.4 threes a game at a 36% clip. He did not do much in Indiana’s first two games, scoring seven points total on 9 field goal attempts.
In the backcourt, Indiana is led by 6-3 senior point guard Xavier Thompson, who averaged 14 points, four rebounds, and five assists in his first three years of college basketball as a starter at Pitt. In his first two games with the Hoosiers, he averaged 14 points and three assists per game. He is a very good and quick ballhandler, and a very good passer.
The other starting guard for Indiana is 6-5 senior Parker Stewart, who previously played a season at Pitt and a season at UT-Martin, where he averaged nine points and 19 points, respectively, and overall averaged 2.4 threes a game at a 36.4% clip. Stewart did not do much damage in his first two Indiana games, making 2/10 field goal attempts.
Off the bench, Indiana’s top player is 6-1 senior guard Rob Phinisee, who started 69 of the 86 games he played in in his first three seasons as a Hoosier. In his career, Phinisee has averaged seven points, three rebounds, and three assists per game, and is very solid at keeping the ball in his possession.
Guards Trey Galloway and Tamar Bates and forward Jordan Geronimo also played in both of Indiana’s first couple of games, all averaging in between 16 and 18 minutes. Geronimo is a high-flying, athletic wing from New Jersey.
Big man Michael Durr is a seven-footer transfer from South Florida who is expected to be a big part of the team this season. Big man Logan Duncomb and guards Khristian Lander and Anthony Leel have each appeared in a game for the Hoosiers and played 10 minutes or less.
Keys to the Game
Shoot the ball well. Indiana does a good job preventing inside shooting, so the Johnnies need to shoot the ball well from mid-range and three in order to get the offense going. Guys like Julian Champagnie, Stef Smith, and Tareq Coburn need to get open for opportunities and get hot from deep to propel the Johnnies to a win.
Be tough defensively. Indiana’s offense has not shown to be as good as their defense, so the Red Storm should play a tough defense and force the Hoosiers into making bad decisions. Mike Anderson has made some improvements to St. John’s defense this season with the addition of players like Montez Mathis and Joel Soriano, and this needs to be on full display tomorrow night.
Run them off the court. St John’s has good depth, and a lot of fast players who can get down the court quickly. The Johnnies should look to showcase their depth and speed with transition points and fast-paced basketball. Dylan Addae-Wusu’s two-way play will be key, as will Rafael Pinzon and Aaron Wheeler’s contributions.
St. John’s guts out a 68-64 win.