After three straight conference losses, St. John’s has an opportunity to find a win — and win back their confidence — against a very good Marquette team tonight.
The way the Red Storm have been playing, the home fans will be ready with the groans. But what if the Red Storm can get the athleticism back on the run, hold on to the ball, and body up a smaller Marquette team?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (11-4, 1-3 Big East) vs Marquette Golden Eagles (11-4, 3-1 Big East)
When: Tuesday, January 3, 2023, 6:30 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
Odds: Marquette -3
Last Season: The game at Carnesecca vs Marquette was cancelled (dang it, COVID!), and Marquette won the matchup in Milwaukee. But Dylan Addae-Wusu was the only Johnnie who could shoot, and the Red Storm lost 85-77.
Marquette looks ahead of schedule, with wins over Baylor and Creighton in Milwaukee and one over Villanova on the road. More importantly, the Golden Eagles have not lost any of their four games by more than five points. The only game they lost in regulation by more than three points was to top-five Purdue.
Shaka Smart’s team looks to be defensively disruptive — which was the reputation his teams had at his earlier head coaching post at VCU. It does not always work — Marquette allows 49% shooting on twos and nearly 34% shooting on threes. Those figures are decent on defense, but not elite.
Where Marquette excels is in forcing turnovers. A few of the guards are ballhawks, but mostly, the Golden Eagles look prepared to counter their opponents’ actions.
The Golden Eagles, however, lack mature size, and struggle on the glass on both ends. While they have a 6’11” freshman in Ben Gold, the team’s paint presence is 6’9” center Oso Ighodaro. Ighodaro is slim and a woeful free throw shooter at 42%, but offensively he gets to the rim and dunks it — and is surprisingly solid a little away from the basket. The big man is a good shot blocker and individually, a decent rebounder.
Joining him is the slim and versatile 6’8” Olivier-Maxence Prosper, who definitely tries some stuff on offense. Not all of that stuff is good, but he gets to the line a copious amount (a ratio of 1 free throw for every two shots) and is a very good athlete. David Joplin is a 6’7” physical presence who will look for his shot. He is only shooting 50% at the rim, but he has an outside jumper.
At guard, it’s hard not to notice Tyler Kolek. He will handle the ball a lot, and can make some deft and surprising passes while he’s on the floor. Kolek is a much-improved three-point shooter this year, and has turned his shooting choice ratios around, no longer taking more (ill-advised?) threes instead of driving for twos.
Sophomore Kam Jones is also hard to miss. He is a strong driver to the rim and has gotten much of his offense close to the net. A good outside shooter, he has a low turnover rate.
Also in the backcourt, and also with a low turnover rate, Stevie Mitchell is a quieter scorer/ ballhandler. He scored double-digits for the first time against Villanova, while finding his outside shot. He can be a ballhawk. Freshman Chase Ross gets under 20 minutes a game, but has the kind of athleticism and natural talent that make him a breakout candidate in some game.
Keys to the Game
Defensive intensity. The Red Storm have yet to play their game in the last three contests, and the defensive intensity has not been always steady. Against a team that comes in with a plan, sometimes that energetic maniacal defensive energy can unnerve an opponent.
Hit the glass. The Red Storm will look to Joel Soriano to establish himself early against a smaller Marquette front line. Along with Soriano, though, the rest of the team has to get second chances — and make those shots. The threes are not yet falling, and energy plays may be St. John’s best friend.
Smart ballhandling. The way St. John’s has been turning the ball over, Marquette will run away like there’s a feast at the basket. How can St. John’s protect the ball better, and become a more characteristic Mike Anderson squad? Hard to say, but they need to. The team does not defend or shoot well enough to suffer through 13 turnovers a game
The Red Storm play a fast-paced and hectic game, but the lack of shooting dooms them. A late spurt makes it close, 82-77.