The Johnnies welcome Colgate from Hamilton, NY (it’s southeast of Syracuse, if you haven’t been there) for an intrastate matchup against a very successful and experienced team that can shoot the lights out.
For the last non-conference game in Carnesecca Arena this season, the Johnnies will need to be on their toes, or they will fall behind, as in quite a few other games this season.
Can the Johnnies bring their “A” defensive game and continue to build on the wins over locals Fordham and Monmouth?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (Big East, 7-2) vs Colgate Raiders (Patriot, 4-6)
When: Sunday, December 12, 2021, 12:00 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, New York
Odds: St. John’s -7.5
History: St. John’s leads the all time matchup 5-2, all at home. Colgate’s last win was in 1920, by the score of 57-19.
The Colgate Raiders, led by 11-year coach Matt Lengel, have become a power in the Patriot League; they have reached their conference championship game four years in a row, with two NCAA Tournament berths to show for it.
The Raiders, from upstate New York, bring a wealth of big game experience and a style that depends on ball movement and threes. While the team is 4-6. they do have a notable win at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome — a game where they were behind 22-5 before raining threes and penetrating the zone.
We should also note that Colgate also lost to a Pittsburgh team that is widely considered to be a... work in progress, but work stopped and there’s just a husk of a program. But I digress.
The Colgate Raiders play smart, sharing basketball, and this team with cut into any defense that a team sticks with for too long. Expect ball movement and nearly interchangeable guards who are confident in making threes when given a space. Up front, the big men are capable enough to finish their layups and make passes from the post to open shooters.
Defensively, Colgate isn’t flashy, and not terribly quick, but they look smart enough to not jump for fakes. They will play back to stop penetration and make opponents take jump shots.
Two players average double figures, and five other players average between seven and nine points per game.
Guards Nelly Cummings (#0), Tucker Richardson (#15) and Jack Ferguson (#13) lead the way in the backcourt. Cummings is a little quicker, and is the team’s leading scorer; the 6-foot guard picks up steals and has taken the most foul shots on the team. He is shooting 50% from beyond the arc, but only 37% inside.
Richardson, at 6’5”, plays more as a wing, and he has struggled with his shot this season. He is a very good defensive rebounder. Ferguson is hitting 34% from deep. Ryan Moffatt (#4), at 6’6”, also pumps in shots and rebounds as well; he is making 47% of his shots from deep.
Keegan Records (#14) is a 6’10“ forward with experience. He and 6’11” sophomore Jeff Woodward (#55) provide a solid paint presence, and will go after offensive rebounds outside of their area. Woodward comes off the bench, but is, per-minute, the Raiders’ most prolific passer. Both can be a little foul prone. They are joined by 6’9” Sam Thompson (#30), who appears to have a similar game.
Keys to the Game
Make them take twos. The key against Colgate is to avoid them getting hot from deep. This season, St. John’s has allowed players from all manner of teams to light up the scoreboard from deep early in the game. In this game, St. John’s has to be defensively disciplined enough to run them off the line and make them take twos, preferably off the dribble. If their bigs are scoring double digits and the guards are struggling to get shots off, that is a very good outcome.
Pound the paint. Against Pittsburgh, who won over Colgate, the Raiders struggled to contain the Pitt size inside. This is a game where Joel Soriano and O’Mar Stanley can continue to make moves — and a game where Esahia Nyiwe can show off his agility and driving skill in the right situations at the center spot.
Communication and discipline. The Johnnies continue to struggle with their help defense, often finding themselves with two defensive players chasing the ball and an open shooter spotting up. The team has to communicate better in transition and in the halfcourt — Montez Mathis’ defensive abilities help, but the rest of the team has to cover the player he is not shutting down.
St. John’s pays attention, and wins 85-80 (after a late flurry from Colgate makes it nerve-wracking).