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St. John’s at Villanova: preview, defensive problems, TV, radio

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St. John’s travels to the Philadelphia suburbs to face a hot-shooting team that should be bent on revenge

Posh Alexander makes life hard for Villanova
Brenden Willsch

Old acquaintances meet again, as St. John’s takes on Villanova for a rematch of one of the more surprising results from the Big East season, the Johnnies handy defeat of Villanova. On that night, St. John’s dictated the play and forced Villanova into uncharacteristically bad shooting, ending the visiting Wildcats’ nine-game winning streak.

It won’t be as easy to knock off Villanova a second time. The Wildcats have been cooking and the experienced squad will likely be looking for revenge.

St. John’s is actually 3-3 against Villanova in their last six games, giving the Big East’s perennial top team fits. But the Red Storm are coming off of a loss to lowly DePaul; will the Red Storm bounce back to defeat ‘Nova, giving new life to their hopes for postseason basketball?

Game Information

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (14-9, 8-8 Big East) vs. Villanova Wildcats (14-3, 9-2 Big East)

When: Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 8:00 PM

Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY (no fans)

TV: CBS SN | Online

Radio: 970 AM | TuneIn Radio

What went right in the win over Villanova

St. John’s may have been fortunate that Villanova didn’t shoot well, but it was clear that the Johnnies worked hard to keep them uncomfortable on the perimeter. They closed out, harassed, and disrupted. Posh Alexander made Collin Gillespie turn the ball over, Vince Cole helped establish an outside shooting presence, and Julian Champagnie made smart plays even when his shot was not falling.

The offense for the Red Storm was not the high-paced, free-flowing attack in the first half, but it was a game where they played tough, and the bench brought extra energy to the 70-59 win.

The Villanova game was the first with a tighter rotation for Mike Anderson’s Johnnies. John McGriff saw a minute, and hasn’t played in the four games since, and Arnaldo Toro has not played in five contests, including the Villanova game.

Struggles against DePaul

The Red Storm lost 88-83 at home to DePaul on Saturday.

St. John’s had a six game winning streak, only to lose two of their last three — defeating Xavier (currently ranked #58 in KenPom metrics) as the meat in the middle of a two losses to teams at the bottom of the standings, Butler (KenPom: 132) and DePaul (KenPom: 121).

Why?

The paint defense seems to be a culprit. Butler shot 22/30 near the rim — 48% of their shots — and took 26% of their shots from deep. Aaron Thompson, in particular, slashed his way to the rim for 17 points, 10 assists, with six free throws attempted.

DePaul shot 25/35 near the rim — 65% of their total field goal attempts — and took 15% of their shots from deep. Charlie Moore, in particular, slashed his way to the rim for 24 points, eight assists, with six free throws attempted

On the other hand, Xavier took 55% of their shots from distance and only attempted 23 shots inside, 32% of their attempts.

The Red Storm offense has been consistently good, or at least good enough.

But the defense has been, despite the talk of defensive identity, bad by the numbers. It’s not just the high number of points — St. John’s plays at a fast pace — it’s the way that the Red Storm has been unable to stop teams all season. That issue has become acutely bad in the last four games. inside in the last four games.

St. John’s has given up 58%, 59%, 58% and 65% inside the arc in the last four games.

Inexplicably, Villanova shot 37% inside the arc AND missed on a lot of their usually-reliable three-pointers in their last contest against St. John’s.

The saving grace in tonight’s game against Villanova may be that the Wildcats are more of a ball-moving, spot-up shooting team than a slashing team. Villanova has a system, and do they want to go against type to win?

But if they can get Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels going to the basket, if they bang just a little more, can the Wildcats win? Will a few more slashing guard drives to the basket expose the St. John’s perimeter defense? Recent games say yes.

Keys to the Villanova game

Composure. Julian Champagnie, after the last Villanova game, said that they team will make mistakes, and the important reaction to mistakes is “it’s not about what we do [wrong], it’s about what we do after.” Composure will be key.

High-energy defense. The Red Storm have to stay active, react fast, get to the shooters on defense, and provide as much congestion and harassment as they can.

More Posh. St. John’s needs bigger games from Posh Alexander if they want to win. The point guard is instrumental in creating scoring opportunities inside the arc, and imposes chaos on other teams.

Prediction

A better Johnnies performance, but Villanova shoots its way to a win, 81-74.