With an inspiring performance on the road at Providence on Wednesday, St. John's was able to pick up their first Big East win of the season. But for a team that still currently sits in ninth place in the conference, they understand that there is still much work to be done, and that begins on Sunday when the Red Storm will travel to Rosemont, Illinois to face the DePaul Blue Demons.
How to Watch/Listen
The game will tip off at 2:30 P.M. on Fox Sports 1 with Justin Kutcher and Stephen Bardo on the call. As always it will be broadcasted on 970 AM (WNYM) with John Minko and Vin Parise commentating.
St. John's is a 7-point favorite over the DePaul Blue Demons.
Scouting St. John's
The Red Storm were able to break a three-game losing streak on Wednesday behind a balanced scoring effort and impressive 3-point shooting performance. They shot over 50% from the field for the game including a staggering 59% from 3-point range.
While D`Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene IV led the way with 20 points each, this was arguably the Johnnies most balanced scoring output of the season, with Sir`Dominic Pointer adding 18 and Rysheed Jordan scoring 17.
Obviously the Red Storm will not be able to duplicate that type of shooting in every game that they play for the remainder of the season, but they will need that type of balanced scoring to consistently win conference games going forward. While Harrison is capable of scoring 20-plus points every night, he will need that same help that he got on Wednesday night from the other scorers on this team.
If St. John's gets 75 points combined from Harrison, Greene IV, Pointer, and Jordan every night, they could compete with any team in the Big East. But obviously, no one can shoot 59% from 3-point range in every game that they play.
Also of note on Wednesday night was the play of the St. John's bench, most notably freshman Amar Alibegovic, who scored four points, grabbed two rebounds, and had an assist in just 14 minutes of action. Alibegovic provided a bit of a spark off the bench in what were really his first meaningful minutes of the season on Wednesday night, and that was a beautiful sight for Red Storm fans who have been begging for Coach Lavin to utilize his bench more during Big East play.
The Blue Demons come into this one with an even 9-9 record and a surprising 3-2 mark so far in the Big East. They opened up conference play with three straight victories, but things have taken a turn back to normal in the past week, as they've dropped two straight to Villanova and Georgetown.
It seems like the consensus around the Big East this season, however, is that this is not the usual DePaul team that we have come to expect over the past few years. With talented scorers such as guard Billy Garrett Jr. and forward Myke Henry, the Blue Demons could certainly be capable of pulling off a few upsets in Big East play, and we've seen that already with their victory over Xavier a few weeks back.
Leading the way for DePaul are the aforementioned Garrett Jr. and Henry, who each average just under 13 points per game. Last year's Big East Rookie of the Year, Garrett Jr., is putting up numbers comparable to those in his freshman season, and he must be a big part of the Red Storm's defensive game plan on Sunday.
And while the Blue Demons do not shoot a bad percentage from the field (just under 45%, 110th in the nation), a problem for them so far this season has been rebounding. With just 31 rebounds per game as a team, DePaul does not rank in the top 300 in the nation, and they have only two players, Tommy Hamilton IV and Henry, who average over five rebounds per game.
They've been out-rebounded in eight of their nine losses this season, so if St. John's wants to take home a victory on Sunday, they'll likely need to win the battle on the boards.
Looking at depth as well, DePaul appears to go about eight-deep, with only one player averaging over 30 minutes per game on the season. This did not play a role in the Red Storm's last game against Providence, as the game was already at hand down the stretch, but we will see if it comes into play in a close game on Sunday.
St. John's Keys to the Game
Here's what the Red Storm will have to do to knock off DePaul in Rosemont on Sunday, a feat which they were unable to accomplish last season.
Find the Robin (Or multiple Robins) to Harrison's Batman. We saw on Wednesday night how dangerous the Red Storm can be when they get consistent scoring out of other players in addition to D`Angelo Harrison. Aside from Harrison's 20, they got an even 20 from Phil Greene IV as well, including 18 from Sir'Dominic Pointer and 17 from Rysheed Jordan.
St. John's knows that they can count on a consistent 20-plus from Harrison almost every game going forward, especially with him on the floor for 35-plus minutes a night, so the key for them on Sunday and going forward will be to find that supporting character for their Dark Knight in Harrison.
Whether it be Greene, Pointer, Jordan, or even Chris Obekpa, it makes things a lot easier for the Red Storm when they have two or more consistent scoring options on the floor at any moment.
Control the boards. As stated earlier in the preview, DePaul is not a very strong rebounding team. But after back to back embarrassing performances on the boards over their last two games in which they have been out-rebounded 85-50, St. John's shouldn't be all too confident in themselves either.
That makes this a perfect opportunity for the Red Storm to gain some of their confidence back on the boards going forward. With Chris Obekpa and Sir'Dominic Pointer each averaging over seven rebounds per game, they should each be able to haul in double-digit rebounds on Sunday against the 322nd-best rebounding team in the nation.
Have the bench step up, again. With Rysheed Jordan being promoted to a starting role after Jamal Branch suffered an apparent hand injury before Wednesday night's game, St. John's got just six combined points from three players on their bench.
But for many surrounding the team, it wasn't about the points that were scored by Amar Alibegovic and Felix Balamou, but it was about the impact that the two (along with Joey De La Rosa) had in their limited time on the floor. Some Red Storm fans have practically been begging coach Lavin to open up the bench, and for the first time Wednesday night, he did so with some relative success.
As we've spoken about at earlier points in the season, the Johnnies do not need bundles of scoring from those on their bench not named Rysheed Jordan, but if they can get that type of production from their bench again on Sunday, it could result in a second straight victory.
So will Lavin go back to his bench against DePaul with Alibegovic and Balamou, or will we see others, like Christian Jones or Myles Stewart, have a chance to make an impact?
While St. John's does appear to have the talent advantage on paper going into Sunday, DePaul has proven this season that they are not to be taken lightly. With a home game against a beatable Marquette team on the radar and a chance to get back to .500 in the Big East before a date with Duke further down the road, this game's importance can not be understated. A win would keep the Johnnies on the right track going forward, while a loss would all but erase the team's stellar play at Providence on Wednesday.