Today, the St. John’s Red Storm takes on the NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology) Highlanders at home.
The Johnnies look to improve on some recent sluggish performances in wins against Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Francis Brooklyn. NJIT comes from the America East Conference, and should be more of a challenge than the NEC opponents that the Red Storm have recently played... the Highlanders recently defeated the FDU Knights.
On Tuesday against St. Francis Brooklyn, the Red Storm were without arguably their best two ball handlers, Posh Alexander and Rafael Pinzon. If one or both of those players is able to come back against the Highlanders, that would provide a big boost to the Johnnies offense, allowing them to get up and down the floor quicker.
There has not been word about their availability, so expect neither to play. Can St. John’s dispatch NJIT without those two?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (Big East, 4-1) vs NJIT Highlanders (AE, 2-2)
When: Saturday, November 27, 2021, 4:00 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, New York
TV: FS2 | online
Odds: St. John’s, -20.
History: The Johnnies have a 4-1 record against the Highlanders all time, losing their last matchup on December 20, 2015 by a score of 83-74.
NJIT is a better team than Mississippi Valley State, Fairleigh Dickinson, or St. Francis Brooklyn, who have combined to win 0 out of 12 games this season.
The Highlanders are 2-2. They have beat Lehigh and Fairleigh Dickinson and have lost to Merrimack and Rutgers. In KenPom ratings, they are ranked 273 out of 358, compared to the current St. John’s ranking of 53.
The Highlanders’ best player is 6-5 senior forward Miles Coleman, who in 4 games this season has averaged 17 points and eight rebounds, making a pair of threes a game at a 33% clip. He joined the Highlanders last season after playing his freshman and sophomore seasons at two different JUCO programs.
The next leading scorer for NJIT is 6-4 senior guard Dylan O’Hearn, who like Coleman played a couple of JUCO seasons before transferring to NJIT in his junior year. In four games this year he is averaging 16 points and three rebounds, making 2.5 threes a game on 42% shooting.
The other two frontcourt starters for the Highlanders besides Coleman are 6-9 grad transfer forward Matt Faw and 6-9 senior forward Souleymane Diakite. Faw played four seasons at Holy Cross, averaging 11 points and five rebounds in his senior season, and three points and four rebounds in his all four games this year. Diakite is in his fourth season at NJIT, last year averaging six points and five rebounds, and this year is averaging three points and seven points. Faw and Diakite have struggled putting the ball in the basket this year, with field goal percentages of 24% and 17%, respectively. Both are very good shot blockers.
The fifth starting spot for NJIT has been split between 6-0 senior guard Antwuan Butler and 6-3 junior guard James Lee. Butler is in his second season with the Highlanders after he transferred from Austin Peay after two seasons, and this year is averaging nine points, three rebounds, and two and a half assists. Lee is a JUCO transfer and is averaging seven points, four points, and two assists.
The Highlanders run a 7-man rotation, with their last rotation player being 6-4 sophomore guard Mekhi Gray, who is averaging six points and four rebounds this year.
Statistically, NJIT is very solid defensively, ranking 70th in the country in points allowed per game out of the 358 D-I teams, and 100th for defensive rating. The Highlanders allow 42% shooting inside the arc. They do not score that frequently though, averaging 62.5 points a game, which puts them at 319th in the country.
Keys to the Game
Start the game awake. The Johnnies have come into the games against Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Francis Brooklyn cold, and have payed the price with hard fought, close games. They need to start out hot against the Highlanders and show that they are capable of dominating worse teams.
Use big men. Last game against St. Francis Brooklyn, the Red Storm relied heavily on their small ball lineup, with Joel Soriano, Aaron Wheeler, and Omar Stanley all playing less than 15 minutes. NJIT is a different team than the Terriers, as they start a couple of legit forwards, which should provide Mike Anderson with an opportunity to use his bigs.
Shoot the three ball well. Against Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Francis Brooklyn, the Johnnies had three point percentages of 23% and 21%, respectively. This can’t happen again, as the Johnnies need an efficient shooting game to score the ball well against the Highlanders solid defense.
St. John’s gets a somewhat satisfying 75-60 win.