St. John’s lost their first game of 2023 in brutal fashion, turning a seven-point halftime lead into an 11-point loss to Marquette. The loss was their fourth straight and moved them to 1-4 in conference play, as they look to turn around their season tomorrow afternoon when they take on the Providence Friars, who are undefeated in Big East play, on the road.
The Johnnies had a different look in their backcourt against Marquette. Andre Curbelo missed the game due to a suspension, Rafael Pinzon was limited due to injuries, and Posh Alexander came off the bench while Dylan Addae-Wusu picked up his first start. Addae-Wusu contributed a 21-point performance in his first start, and it will be interesting to see if that earns him another start against the Friars.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (11-5, 1-4 Big East) at Providence Friars (13-3, 5-0 Big East)
When: Saturday, January 7, 2022, 12:00 PM
Where: Amica Mutual Pavilion, Providence, Rhode Island
Odds: Providence -7
Last Season: Providence took both games of last year’s set, winning both by 10 points or less.
Providence has been a strong tough team, and is earing national attention, having received votes in last week’s AP Poll and coming into tomorrow’s matchup with a KenPom ranking of 28. That ranking is far higher than the Red Storm’s current ranking of 78.
The Friars have won eight straight contests, including all five of their first Big East games. Some of their most impressive Big East wins have come against Marquette and UConn, who were ranked #24 and #4 when those games were played.
Willing to play at pace or slow things down, Providence has seen success being in control with lots of screens and cuts from the big men on either side of the painted area. Providence has been excellent at defending without fouling, while drawing fouls, avoiding threes, and getting to the offensive glass.
The Friars are coached by veteran Ed Cooley, in his 12th season with the program. Last season, Cooley led the Friars to a 27-6 record, a Big East regular season championship, thirteen consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25, and a Sweet 16 finish in the NCAA Tournament.
Providence’s squad this season looks a lot different from last year’s successful group, as they returned no starters. They have had to rely on transfers and bench players stepping up from from last year. Freshman guards Jayden Pierre and Corey Floyd Jr. and freshman forward Rafael Castro have all played in most games but have not been given a lot of minutes.
Providence has been led this year by 6-7 Kentucky transfer sophomore forward Bryce Hopkins, who has averaged 16.4 points and 9.2 rebounds on 49.1% from the field. He is joined in the starting frontcourt by 6-8 redshirt senior Ed Croswell, a fifth-year player in his third season with the Friars. For the broad shouldered big man, who had spent two years at LaSalle, this is his first year as starter. He has done well in his new role, averaging 12.8 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting over 60% from the field.
In the backcourt, Providence returns last season’s Big East 6th Man of the Year and a member of the All-Big East Second Team, 5-10 grad guard Jared Bynum. Bynum has struggled to continue last year’s success, as he has dropped from 12.2 points per game to 9.1 while shooting 35.8% from the field and 24.% from deep.
Providence’s other two starters are both transfer guards, 6-3 grad student Noah Locke and 6-3 sophomore Devin Carter. Locke was a three-year starter at Florida before starting last season at Louisville, providing some solid experience to the Friars lineup. Locke has averaged 9.4 points per contest so far this season, and makes 34.5% of his 5.4 three point attempts per game. Carter made SEC All-Freshman as a backup last year at South Carolina, and has averaged 12.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 steals so far for Providence.
Off the bench, the main two contributors for the Friars are 6-11 grad forward Clifton Moore and 6-3 junior guard Alyn Breed. Moore is a transfer from La Salle, where he spent two years as a starter after spending his first two college seasons on Indiana’s bench. Moore plays 15.6 minutes per game and averages 6.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. Breed is a third-year player for Providence, and averages 5.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in 19.1 minutes per game.
Keys to the Game
Prevent runs. So far in Big East play, St. John’s has lost game because of the big runs they have given up, especially in the second half. If they want any chance to win tomorrow, they need to prevent the Friars from ever going on a big run, especially in the second half. Smarter, less-hasty shot decisions are key.
Clean up turnovers. The Johnnies have also struggled with turnovers in conference play, turning the ball over 16 times in their most recent loss. They cannot afford to be sloppy tomorrow and need to protect the ball.
Feed the hot hand. The Red Storm have struggled to score consistently this year, so they need to recognize when a player is hot and let them do their thing. Players like Dylan Addae-Wusu and AJ Storr have shown they can score the ball — and should be given more opportunity to do so.
St. John’s continues to struggle and loses 87-65.