After another underwhelming first half, St. John’s beat Central Connecticut State 91-74.
The energy in Carnesecca Arena for this one was akin to that of an 8 AM mass after Mardi Gras, and maybe for good reason. For the second straight game, St. John’s failed to easily dispatch of a team against whom the Johnnies were favored by 20 points or more.
Early in the second half, Joel Soriano picked up where he left off in the second half against Lafayette. Soriano posted up with the intention of getting the ball, and his teammates got him the ball.
Otherwise, the rest of the Red Storm looks tight and timid early, letting the Blue Devils get out to an early 7-point lead. However, after a good stretch by St. John’s first big man, their second big man, O’Mar Stanley, came in and infused some energy.
THE BLOCK ✋— St. John's Men’s Basketball (@StJohnsBBall) November 16, 2022
THE FINISH pic.twitter.com/gtm3A7Yww1
Soriano finished the half with combined for 9 points (4-6 FG) and 3 rebounds. The Blue Devils eventually responded by doubling Soriano in the post, but as his 1 assist in the first half suggest, the Johnnies weren’t able to capitalize on Soriano’s passes out of the double-team.
The issue for the Red Storm for the first half was their perimeter defense for long stretches. Central Connecticut state shot 6 of 13 from beyond the arc, most of the misses of which had more to due with poor shot selection than quality defense. An opponent’s shooting well would be more palatable if the Johnnies were simply getting burned as a result of aggressive steal attempts. However, the Red Storm weren’t playing the passing lanes and only forced 8 turnovers that were converted to an even fewer 7 points.
To make matters worse, the concerns about St. John’s perimeter shooting appeared in the actual game for the first time this season. The Johnnies were an unimpressive 2 of 8 from deep in the first half. Exacerbating the matter, Rafael Pinzon, who has arguably the best looking jump shot on the team, sat for the entire first half and only appeared after the game seemed largely out of hand.
The Johnnies were able to out-talent Central Connecticut State enough to be up at the half, 40-36.
In the second half, St. John’s mixed in some 2-3 zone defense and Central Connecticut State responded like you would expect the team ranked 338th in the country by KenPom to respond.
The Blue Devils’ offensive woes paired with what appeared to be some fatigue aided St. John’s in their pulling away from Central Connecticut State. Nobody capitalized on the tired Blue Devil defense as much as David Jones did. After a quiet 4-point first half, Jones and his athleticism capitalized to the tune of 13 second half points (6-7 FG, 1-2 3PT), 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.
The deep bench, including Kolby King, Mohamed Keita, and Drissa Traore got some run with five minutes left in the contest after St. John’s went up by 24 points. AJ Storr got to be the primary option with the deep bench and gave a preview of how good he can be with 5 points in garbage time.
At the end of regulation, St. John’s won by a score of 91-74.
The Red Storm go on a stretch of playing schools my mother has actually heard of, starting with Nebraska on Thursday at 6:30 PM in Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s Red Storm
David Jones: 17 Points (7-14 FG, 1-4 3PT), 10 Rebounds, 4 Assists
Montez Mathis: 13 Points (5-7 FG, 1-2 3PT), 2 Rebounds
Posh Alexander: 12 Points (5-8 FG, 0-2 3PT), 5 Rebounds, 6 Assists
Central Connecticut State Blue Devils
Nigel Scantlebury: 16 Points (7-13 FG, 2-5 3PT), 4 Rebounds, 4 Assists
Kellen Amos: 14 Points (5-11 FG, 3-8 3PT), 6 Rebounds, 3 Assists