St. John’s has a pretty solid non conference challenge tomorrow, as they take on the Monmouth Hawks, one of the best teams in the MAAC. The Johnnies beat Fordham by 14 on Sunday in a game where they did not play badly, but did not play great.
Against Fordham, Mike Anderson made some changes to the Red Storm starting lineup, starting Esahia Nyiwe in place of Joel Soriano and Dylan Addae-Wusu in place of Stef Smith. Nyiwe and Addae-Wusu played well, as Nyiwe provided an athletic presence who would play in the paint and Addae-Wusu played well all around with 11 points, 11 assists, and 4 steals. Anderson relied on his starters heavily against the Rams, giving no one more than 8 minutes off the bench.
Clearly, opponents see opportunity against St. John’s, where lulls and turnovers give opposing teams chances to rack up double-digit runs to surprise the Johnnies. Can St. John’s clean up their play and tie down the Hawks?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (Big East, 6-2) vs Monmouth Hawks (MAAC, 7-1)
When: Thursday, December 9, 2021, 8:30 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, New York
Odds: St. John’s -8.5
History: St. John’s leads the all time matchup 3-0.
Monmouth is ranked higher on the tempo-free metrics than all the teams St. John’s has beaten so far, sitting at a KenPom ranking of 142 out of 358. Monmouth’s defense has been particularly effective at getting opponents to miss three-pointers; in seven games, teams have tried to shoot from deep but have connected on less than 30% of their attempts. Monmouth also gets to the line a lot, and has made their free throws at an 81.5% clip, 2nd in the country.
The Hawks lost on the opening night of the season by two to Charlotte, and have not lost since. Their most impressive win is against Cincinnati, who is currently ranked 71 in KenPom, compared to the Johnnies current KenPom of 69.
[Fun fact!: Cincinnati coach Wes Miller is the older brother of Monmouth big man Walker Miller.]
The Hawks are pretty balanced on both sides of the ball, and shoot from deep well at a rate of 39.1%, though they do not shoot many three-pointers. They are also a very experienced team, starting 4 grad students and 1 senior.
Monmouth runs an 8 man rotation, and coach King Rice gives his starters a lot of minutes. Their leading scorer is 6-5 grad guard George Papas, who is in his fifth season with the Hawks. Papas is averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists, and shoots the ball extremely well, making 3.5 threes a game on 44.4%.
The next leading scorer for the Hawks is 6-2 grad guard Shavar Reynolds, who the Johnnies are very familiar with, as he played 4 seasons at Seton Hall. Reynolds has started off very well for Monmouth, averaging 15.8 points and 3.4 rebounds and shooting 40.7% from deep. St. John’s fans may remember Reynolds coming off the bench and making the winning shot in a controversial Seton Hall win over the Red Storm.
Monmouth’s third backcourt starter is 6-3 grad guard Marcus McClary, who is in his fifth season with Monmouth and is averaging 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. McClary is strong and plays taller than his listed height.
Monmouth’s starting big is 6-11 grad transfer forward Walker Miller, who is in his first season with the Hawks after 4 seasons at North Carolina, where he never averaged more than one point per game. Like Reynolds he is excelling at a non-power program, averaging 14.6 points and 7.1 boards per game. Monmouth’s other starting forward is defensive-minded 6-8 senior Nikkei Rutty, who in his fourth season with the Hawks is averaging 3.3 points and 7.0 rebounds.
Off the bench, Monmouth’s leading scorer is 6-7 sophomore forward Myles Foster, who averages 5.4 points and 2.8 rebounds. There is also gritty 6-0 senior guard Samuel Chaput and 6-0 sophomore guard Myles Ruth, who both average around 13 minutes and 3 points per contest.
Keys to the Game
Use what works. These games have been a chance to see what works on the roster, to experiment while giving a number of players chances. Now that the games are more challenging, Mike Anderson needs to ride whatever lineup that will win the Johnnies the game. Tonight’s game may need more of the strength of Joel Soriano, for example, or a large number of minutes from Montez Mathis.
Prevent the three on defense. As previously mentioned, George Papas and the Hawks shoot the ball very well from deep, and this is something St. John’s has to shut down or at least limit. Against Cincinnati, the Monmouth guards, who have otherwise feasted at the line, took only four (of eight total) free throw attempts — but the team shot 8-16 from deep.
Play fast. The Red Storm need to take advantage of their depth and speed to force turnovers and keep a fast paced game where a lot of points are scored, as the Johnnies currently rank 11th in the country in points per game. Monmouth has thrived in sucking the air out of opponents’ possessions and keeping the scores low.
St. John’s has a solid win, 85-73.