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Breakdown: defense - in the second half - a culprit for St. John's struggles

In the second halves of games, the Red Storm are giving up a LOT of points.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

What started off as a promising season despite a thin roster has become a source of concern. How does a team go from a #15 ranking with a disruptive defense to 1-4 in Big East play?

A lot of the problem is on the defensive side.

Somehow, St. John's defense - which was the 4th best in the country according to KenPom's tempo-neutral rankings coming into Big East play - has become a sieve in Big East play, giving up 1.15 points per possession in conference (that's around what DePaul was like on defense last year.)

St. John's has played the top two offenses in Big East play (Villanova and Seton Hall), and the two best three point shooting teams (DePaul and Butler). But still, bad defense has had consistent characteristics.

There have been two consistent refrains for St. John's in this stretch of January (and New Year's Eve):

  • The first is St. John's poor rebounding, which has allowed opponents to grab over 41% of their own misses in Big East play, by far the worst in the conference.

  • The second is the Red Storm's second half defensive lapses in every Big East game. (Allowing opponents to shoot 39% from outside the arc is also an issue.)

What it adds up to is some crooked numbers for opponents in the second halves.

St. John's second half woes

And if you prefer tables:

Opponent 1st Half Pts/ Poss 2nd Half Pts/ Poss 2nd Half Change
at DePaul 0.56 1.45 +0.89
at Providence 1.01 1.11 +0.10
vs Villanova 1.07 1.57 +0.50
vs Butler 0.87 1.44 +0.57
at Seton Hall 1.33 1.24 -0.09

Looking specifically at the three-point shooting, where the second half becomes a land of opportunity for St. John's opponents:

SJU opponent 1st Half 3PT% 2nd Half 3PT%
at DePaul 17.6% 60.0%
at Providence 40.0% 18.2%
vs Villanova 27.3% 58.3%
vs Butler 50.0% 75.0%
at Seton Hall 36.4% 50.0%

Only against Providence did they hold a team to a worse three-point shooting percentage than in the first half. Or a lower percentage of assisted baskets, by the way.

Which may be an anomaly.

Or maybe, the Red Storm's lack of depth affects their ability to get out on three-point shooters and make them uncomfortable. Why is this different than in non-conference play? Maybe it's scouting. Maybe it's better quality of opponent.

Whatever it is, the Red Storm's ability to be disruptive takes a hit in the second halves, and this is a problem for Steve Lavin and the staff to solve if the Johnnies want live up to the #UnfinishedBusiness mantra - and reach the NCAA Tournament this season for the seniors.