St. John’s will play their toughest non-conference matchup tomorrowƒsu afternoon when they go on the road to play the defensive-minded #23 Iowa State.
The Cyclones will be the Red Storm’s first ranked opponent this season, and their only road game in non-conference play. The matchup is part of the fourth annual Big East-Big 12 Battle, where 10 Big East-Big 12 matchups go down in early December.
The Johnnies last played on Tuesday, when they beat a very bad LIU squad 95-68, where the Red Storm finally had a dominant first half, leading by 24 at the break. Mike Anderson was able to go deep into his bench, as 13 players received minutes in the game. Posh Alexander and Rafael Pinzon both returned from injury, while Montez Mathis sat out due to an illness.
Against LIU, the Red Storm received a great performance from Andre Curbelo, who poured in 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Joel Soriano had yet another double-double with 16 points and 10 boards, and Posh Alexander had a very respectable 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists. Off the bench, the Red Storm’s top contributor was Rafael Pinzon, who had 14 points and 4 rebounds.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (8-0) at Iowa State Cyclones (6-1)
When: Sunday, December 4, 2022, 3:00 PM
Where: Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa
Odds: Iowa State -5
History: The programs have only faced off once, on December 21, 1948, where the Johnnies won 71-47 at MSG.
Scouting the Cyclones
Iowa State comes into the matchup ranked #23 in this week’s AP poll, which saw St. John’s receive votes for the first time this season.
The Red Storm are slightly higher rated in KenPom, coming into the matchup at 41st in the country while the Cyclones currently sit at 48th. Iowa State’s one loss on the season came by an 18-point margin to UConn in the finals of the Phil Knight Invitational. On their way to playing the Huskies, Iowa State had to beat Villanova and UNC, who was ranked #1 in the country at the time.
The Cyclones are coached by TJ Otzelberger, who is in his second season as head coach of the program. Last year, Otzelberger led Iowa State to a 22-13 record and a Sweet 16 appearance as an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament. He only returned 44.3% of last year’s minutes this season, losing his top two scorers. He coaches a very experienced bunch this season, however, as seven of his nine rotation players have played at least three seasons of D1 ball.
One key returner for Otzelberger is 6-4 senior guard Gabe Kalscheur, who was a three-year starter at Minnesota before transferring to Iowa State, where he started last year and is coming off the bench this year. This season, he has put up 8.9 points per contest, though shooting only 31.3% from the field.
Kalscheur is joined off the bench by 6-10 senior big Robert Jones, who played his first two seasons of college ball at Denver, and who started for the Cyclones towards the end of last season. Jones this year is posting averages of 7.4 points and 3 rebounds per game.
Iowa State’s starting lineup has two transfers, both of which are seniors coming in from St. Bonaventure. One of those seniors is 6-4 guard Jaren Holmes, who started all three seasons he played for the Bonnies, and who is leading the Cyclones in scoring this season with 14.9 points per game, in addition to averages of 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.6 steals.
The other transfer from St. Bonaventure is the shot-altering 6-10 center Osun Osunniyi, who was a four-year starter for the Bonnies. This season Osunniyi is averaging 10.3 points and 3.9 rebounds, although he was shown to be more of a paint presence with St. Bonaventure, where he averaged 8.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.
Two Iowa State starters are returning players who came off the bench last season, 6-3 senior guard Caleb Grill and 6-8 senior forward Aljaz Kunc. Grill played his freshman season for Iowa State, transferred to UNLV for his sophomore season, then transferred back to Iowa State before his junior year. He is the Cyclones’ best shooting threat, averaging 11 points per game and connecting on 34.9% of his 6.1 three point attempts per contest.
Kunc played three seasons at Washington State before transferring to Iowa State before last season, and this year leads the Cyclones in rebounding with averages of 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds.
Iowa State’s veteran starting lineup is rounded out by a freshman, 6-1 guard Tamin Lipsey. In his first seven games of D1 basketball, Lipsey has averaged 6.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. He is joined in the Cyclones’ rotation by one other freshman, 6-6 guard Demarion Watson, who averages 2.1 points and 4 rebounds off the bench.
The Cyclones’ last rotation player is 6-9 senior forward Hason Ward, who before this season was a three year player and one-and-a-half year starter for VCU. This year, Ward is averaging 3.6 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.6 steals in 11.7 bench minutes per game.
Keys to the Game
No dumb mistakes. This St. John’s team has shown it can be very sloppy at times, and that is not going to cut it against a very experienced Iowa State squad. The Johnnies need a tight and controlled offensive performance with limited performance and good looks.
Hit shots. The Cyclones win games with their defense, as they have one of the best defenses in the country, ranking 11th in the nation in points allowed per game and 18th in defensive rating. The Red Storm need to take advantage of the looks they get and cannot afford an inefficient game from the field.
Win the game with defense. One of Iowa State’s biggest weaknesses is their three point shooting, as they make only 6.4 threes per game at a rate of 31.3%. St. John’s needs to take advantage of this with a strong defensive effort, both on the perimeter and at the rim.
St. John’s earns their best win of the season and takes down Iowa State in a 66-62 dogfight.