After their worst offensive performance in recent memory on Friday against Villanova, St. John’s basketball will face a tough test tomorrow night when they go on the road to play Creighton.
In a year where the fans (at least) thought the Red Storm had a legitimate shot at the NCAA Tournament, the team has struggled to find an identity and rhythm. Recent wins have hinted at a team that works well playing inside-out, but turnovers and poor outside shooting have left the Red Storm struggling to find points, to put teams away, and to build a rhythm.
A game at Creighton, where the home crowd is loud and the advantage is palpable, is the Johnnies’ next chance to change the narrative around the team.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (13-7, 3-6 Big East) atCreighton Bluejays (11-8, 5-3 Big East)
When: Wednesday, January 24, 2023, 9:00 PM
Where: CHI Health Center
TV: CBS Sports Network
Odds: Creighton, -9.5
Last Season: Creighton took both legs of the matchup, with a blowout win at home and a 3-point victory at Carnesecca.
Creighton came into this season with a lot of hype, entering the first day of the college basketball season as the #9 team in the country and #1 team in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll. They won their first six games of the season, including two ranked wins, but then lost six straight.
After that rough six-game losing streak against solid teams (but also a loss against Nebraska), the Bluejays have won 4 of their last 6. That stretch was good enough for them to receive votes in this week’s AP Poll and currently be ranked 16th by KenPom, which has the Johnnies currently sitting at 65th.
Creighton is coached by Greg McDermott, who’s in his 13th season with the program. McDermott uses a short rotation, with all his starters averaging over 29 minutes and only two bench players averaging double-digit minutes.
In terms of players, Creighton’s most important guy is their big, 7-1 junior center Ryan Kalkbrenner, who was the 2021-22 Big East DPOY. This year, Kalkbrenner is averaging 14.9 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks, while shooting 72.9% from the field. Kalkbrenner is a better shot blocker than a defensive rebounder. He is joined in the frontcourt by another returning starter, 6-7 sophomore forward Arthur Kaluma. In his second year of college ball, Kaluma is averaging 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest.
On the wings, Creighton has a couple guards who can shoot the ball, Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman. Alexander is a 6-4 sophomore who mostly came off the bench for Creighton last season, and who averages 13.1 points and 4.3 rebounds, making 41.2% of his 3.6 three point attempts per game. Scheierman is a 6-7 senior who transferred before this season from South Dakota State, where he played for three seasons and last year was the Summit Conference Player of the Year. For Creighton, Scheierman has averaged 13.3 points, 8.5 rebounds (leading the team), and 3.1 assists, while shooting 39.7% from deep on 6.4 attempts per contest.
The Bluejays’ starting point guard is 6-0 sophomore Ryan Nembhard, last season’s Big East Rookie of the Year. This season, Nembhard is averaging 11.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists.
Greg McDermott does not rely on heavy minutes from his bench, but when he does, he typically relies on 6-10 freshman center Fredrick King in the frontcourt, and 6-3 senior guard Francisco Farabello in the backcourt. 6-9 freshman forward Mason Miller and 6-1 junior guard Shereef Mitchell play in most games, but only for a few minutes.
Keys to the Game
The Red Storm just could not score the ball against Villanova, and ruined a chance of an extended Big East winning streak after wins over Butler and UConn. The Johnnies went 18-56 from the field and 3-12 from deep. Joel Soriano was solid with 14 points and 16 boards, although he did miss seven of his 11 field goals. Dylan Addae-Wusu was the Red Storm’s most productive guard, putting up 12 points, three rebounds, and four assists, while shooting 4-7 from the field and leading the team with 34 minutes.
The Red Storm have to do better on offense.
Score the ball. 49 points against a struggling Nova team at the Garden is unacceptable. If the Red Storm want to win games and keep their season alive, they need smarter offensive possessions and converted looks. They will especially need a good offensive effort against a Creighton defense that is the best in the country at not fouling.
Confident play. It is too late in the season for the Johnnies to get in their own heads and let one loss cause a skid. They’ve already had one too many skids this season, and a win tomorrow would really help them get back on track and avoid a losing streak.
Avoid droughts. St. John’s scored 3 points in the last 6 minutes of the loss against Villanova. A drought like that would not do them any favors on the road against a tough team, as the Red Storm cannot allow any big Blue Jay runs tomorrow.
The Johnnies have a rough game and lose 82-65.