St. John's Basketball

Covering the St. John's University basketball program back to Big East promience. "This year it's time to win."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Halftime: Pittsburgh 38, St. John's 27

St. John’s underperforming so far against Pittsburgh, in fact the team’s first possession nearly ended in a shot clock violation! Justin Burrell has got to get some touches in the second – Anthony Mason Jr. has poured in 15 already but that is only keeping the Red Storm in the game for the time being. DeJuan Blair for Pitt was quickly established early on, something St. John’s should look to do in the second with Burell. St. John’s did find Blair’s kryptonite however, the two times St. John’s guards double downed on Blair he turned the ball over.

Eugene Lawrence only played about 5 minutes in the 1st; the rest was filled by backup Malik Boothe who played great defense on Pittsburgh’s Ronald Ramon. Ramon scored 7 quick points on Lawrence to start the game but was quickly slowed by Boothe the rest of the way. He currently has 9 points.

Anthony Mason’s 15 points is the only thing keeping St. John’s in the game this far on – the interior defense is lacking to say the least and offensive threat, Larry Wright is forcing the action and has been kept scoreless.

Each time it looked like St. John’s would cut the lead down, Pitt answered emphatically twice – once with a Benjamin three-pointer and the other with a fast break alley oop to Biggs.

The 2nd is starting up, gotta go.

Potential Home Blowout Ensues; Pittsburgh - Game 17

Tonight’s matchup at MSG features a struggling 7-9 St. John’s team versus the 13th ranked, albeit injured, Pittsburgh Panthers.

St. John’s is in the middle of a in conference death sentence coming off consecutive loses to Connecticut, Depaul, and West Virginia, with Pittsburgh kicking off a three game week that also includes Big East powerhouses Louisville and Georgetown. If St. John’s play stays to form they will be looking at a 1-7 January, not to mention all games were in conference play, leaving their Big East tournament hopes seriously in doubt. St. John’s currently holds the 14th slot in the Big East, a game back of Syracuse in 12th, the final team to have a date at the Garden this March at this time.

Although St. John’s has knocked off the Panthers the last three times they squared off at the Garden (including a win over a, then, 15-0 Pitt squad two years ago) they don’t give many fans the thought that this year’s matchup will end in the same exuberance.

Forget the two ugly losses on the road to WVU and UConn over the last few weeks, and the embrassing home loss to Depaul in which the Red Storm blew a nine point lead in the second half, they are overmatched against the Panthers.

Even without starting point guard Levance Fields and small forward Mike Cook the Panthers still are a formidable obstacle, just ask Georgetown who sustainted their only Big East loss to Pitt a little more than a week ago with Cook and Fields on the sidelines.

As all Pitt teams, they are extremely tough. Sam Young leads the team in points per game but is probably better on the defensive side. High school teammate of D.J. Kennedy, DeJaun Blair is a husky body down low and is also a top notch defensive player. Mearly a freshmen, Blair is averaging a double-double in Big East play.

St. John’s should get annihilated the boards, if Anthony Mason Jr. continues to not rebound, snatching up only 5 a game in the Big East. Center Dele Coker is expected to start, perhaps offsetting Pitt’s huge edge on the boards.

Point guard Eugene Lawerence is expected to be limited tonight after sustaining a bruised quad near the conclusion of the WVU game, the first time the injury bug has bit Geno in his tenure at St. John’s.

Keys to Victory

-As always a big game from leading scorer Anthony Mason Jr. Mason’s energy last year versus Syracuse at the Garden spurred the Storm on for a big upset win. Need the same here tonight.
-Minimize turnovers. In a game that will probably have the winners scoring in the 70’s at most, every possession is critical. Hopefully more minutes from Boothe can keep the turnover number down to some effect.
-Get D.J. Kennedy back on track. Early on in the season Kennedy was consistently taking the ball to the hole strong, but recently looks overmatched and has turned the ball over on his drives entirely too much. If Kennedy can penetrate the Pittsburgh defense it gives the Johnnies another dimension on offense.
-Compromise the Pitt offense. Pitt can both pound the ball down low and shoot the three, especially when Bronx product Ronald Ramon is on from downtown. St. John’s will not stop Pitt’s offense as a whole, but they most either guard the three or pack it in down low.

Prediction: Pittsburgh has a tough time stopping Blair down low and the three ball becomes open for the Panthers.

Pitt: 72 STJ: 63

Tonight’s game is a 7 o'clock tip and can be seen and heard on MSG and WFAN 660.

Check back at halftime for a update and some brief thoughts.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Opening Round - Holiday Festival

Tonight with St. John’s back in the Big Apple after a three game stint in Hawaii for the Rainbow Classic, is back after a rather lengthy break. I hope to keep the site up and running throughout coach Norm Roberts’ now fourth season. This season so far has been a definite disappointment, with losses to mid-majors, Niagara, Ohio, Tulane, not to mention a blow out loss to Miami in Coral Gables. Not to say some of this wasn’t expected with a roster packed with freshmen, 8 in total.

Things could be on the upswing though, junior Anthony Mason Jr., whom big things are expected for this season, has been working his way back into the rotation after a early season bout with a high ankle sprain. Rob Thomas is also finding playing time for the first time ever at St. John’s. Granted a partial qualifier by the NCAA last fall that requires a year wait for players to get on the court, Thomas also sustained a major knee injury in March playing pickup basketball. Chances of Thomas returning to the rotation this soon were slim to none at that point in time.

We’ll embark on these proceedings in more detail soon enough, but getting to tonight’s game, St. John’s (5-4) takes on the Marist Red Foxes (6-5) in the first round of the Aeropostale Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden, following Hofstra (2-6) and Virginia Tech . Tip for the doubleheader is scheduled for 6:30. The winner of each two games will square off in tomorrow’s championship round.

Marist rolls into the Garden after a nine point loss at Niagara nearly a week ago. The Red Foxes did no better then St. John’s attempting to contain the nation’s leading scorer, Charron Fisher, giving up his average of 27 points in the loss. St. John’s had previously given up 30 points to Fisher, but did hold him to 8-29 shooting. Marist’s leading scorer is Louie McCroskey, one name Big East fans will remember. In his first year eligible since transferring from Syracuse, McCroskey is averaging 13.5 points per game. Marist could put up a good fight against a St. John’s team that is still looking for anything resembling a set rotation, but St. John’s may get a boost playing in front of the Garden crowd for the first time this year. The last time these two met Marist posted the upset 56-53 two years ago led by Jared Jordan.

Fans can take in the action on MSG or on radio Bloomberg 1130. Live streaming audio will also be available on

Saturday, January 27, 2007

St. John's vs. Pittsburgh 1/27

In less then a hour St. John’s will tip off against Pittsburgh in the Peterson Events Center, a venue that has seen tremendous success for the home Panthers, with only two losses in the last two seasons. This year’s Pitt team is currently ranked 9th in both polls behind leader and Big East Preseason player Aaron Gray. Gray is currently a double-double of 14.8 points and 10.2 boards a game.

Last season the Red Storm knocked off the undefeated Panthers in a thriller at the Garden. Lamont Hamilton did a tremendous job down low holding the Pittsburgh front court to 18 points combined between Gray and Levon Kendall. Senior Carl Krauser was cold all game and shot 5-17 from the floor, only netting 10 points. The final score was 55-50.

St. John’s can defiantly look back the that game to try to duplicate their success against Pitt today. They held Pittsburgh to 35.2% shooting while playing a zone defense throughout the game. Expect to see the same defense today although don’t expect quite the same success. This year’s team has more outside shooters with newcomer Mike Cook and bigger roles for both Levance Fields, who knocked down 6 three pointers in Pitt’s latest win over Cincinnati, and Ronald Ramon. St. John’s does not want to get in a shoot out with the Panthers so the zone defense should do the trick in that aspect.

There is no single player to single out while going up against the Panthers, seeing how they are have such marvelous depth, but St. John’s cannot afford to let Fields burn them up. Fields a one time St. John’s recruit, has shown the ability to break out in key moments, but in Pittsburgh’s only conference loss, Marquette held him to 2 points.

St. John’s will need to get a big game from Hamilton and Anthony Mason Jr., as they seem to be in a half court offense throughout today’s game. A lift from Avery Patterson would be absolutely huge for the Storm, as his three point shooting can pose a threat if Pittsburgh plays a zone defense. Also, in St. John’s big wins over Norte Dame and Syracuse this past week, Larry Wright and Qa’rraan Calhoun played great. Both played a lot of minutes giving St. John’s an energy boost and of course Larry Wright’s game winning shot versus Norte Dame gave them one of their biggest wins in the Norm Roberts era.

All in all, a big task for the Storm today playing in an extremely tough arena, especially for a team like St. John’s that has been a terrible road team the past few years. Daryll Hill is expected to return today and we will see who’s minutes take a hit when Lawrence and Wright have been playing such good basketball. St. John’s will need a big run in this game keyed by some outside shooting, so let’s hope Patterson and Torres (if we haven’t seen the last of him already) ate their Wheaties this morning.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

News and Notes 12/28

Tonight in the second game of Holiday Festival doubleheader at the Garden, St. John’s takes on the Terriers of Boston University. The first game is Hofstra versus St. Joe’s. Each winner advances to the championship round tomorrow night. Tip is set for 8:30 with the consolation game preceding that.

The Holiday Festival is always one of my favorite sporting events of the year. It is over the Holiday break, takes place over two days, and is held at the Garden. I cannot overstate how great it feels to be back in the Garden after a long series of games held at Carnesecca Arena. Having to sit through the “entertainment”, that includes a game of Hot/Cold with a fan blindfolded over and over, and not being able to recline in our seat because there is no back to your seat, makes the trip back to Madison Square feel long overdue.

St. John’s comes off a win versus Columbia shortly before Christmas. Aaron Spears was held out due to his recent suspension, as was Daryll Hill, because of a deep bruise in his left quadriceps he sustained in the NJIT game.

The team placed decent on a night where they could not buy a basket beyond the three point arch. Leading scorer Avery Patterson was held to 6 point on 2-6 shooting, while Lamont Hamilton finally came up big when needed, scoring, a career high, 36 points on 11-13 shooting.

Hamilton was also utilized in the correct fashion, with him getting the ball down low with his back to the basket. When Hamilton gets the ball further out and has to face up to the basket he is extremely unreliable. His moves often have him committing offensive fouls or tumbling to the floor. He is not quick enough to get around defenders, so he must be used with his back to the basket.

Eugene Lawrence did commit 5 turnovers and only 7 points in 36 minutes, but did finish with 6 steals and 10 assists.

Anthony Mason Jr. had a poor game, 2-10 shooting, but was still able to manage to finish with 11 points. He is being more assertive with the ball in his hands this year and could breakout in this tournament. Surely last year on a game where Mason shot 2-10, he would not have got 11 points and had the chance to finish with 14, had he knocked down all of his free throw attempts.

The rebounding must improve, the Red Storm only out rebounded Columbia 29-28. That being said why is Ricky Torres still stuck on the bench as if his warm-ups are glued on to him?

With the team being left with only 8 scholarship players active for the game, Ricky still saw limited action (8 minutes). He can bring an offensive spark to the game and when he does, the following game he is still buried on the bench. He is shooting much better then his freshman year and needs to play more. If this continues Norm puts him in a situation where transferring could look very enticing to Torres.

Tonight, it is safe to say St. John’s should blow out BU. Their two leading scorers are freshmen guards and if Lawrence and Patterson can shut them down, they can expect a big win.

The final score is meaningless to me, as long as St. John’s comes out on top of course, as long as the rebounding improves and perhaps Lawrence can cut down on his turnover total, I will be satisfied.

In other notes, I spotted Rob Thomas and former player Mohammed Diakite at the Columbia game. Nice to see Thomas is hanging around his future teammates and will not leave St. John’s after he was given a partial qualifier by the NCAA, which will have him suiting up next January.

Some more good news for Johnny fans, Bridgton Academy in Maine was ranked the #1 prep school team in the country by Scout, led by none other then Justin Burrell, an incoming player next season. Dele Coker’s (another player coming in next year) team, South Kent rounded out the top ten. Burrell and Coker are a couple reasons why next season could turn out to be a key season in rebuilding process.

Hope everyone has a good time at the game and if your home, you can check out the games on the MSG Network or on ESPN radio.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Roller-Coaster Action @ SJU

Well, quite a bit has perspired since St. John’s led Texas at the half, in the consolation game at Madison Square Garden about a month ago.

Since that loss the teams progress has been much like a roller coaster ride, when a bad loss to Illinois State at home made fans want to vomit, and back around to the point where you feel much safer then you had a minute ago, after the Johnnies beat up on Niagara in their most recent contest held on December 9th.

In this stretch the Red Storm have mostly struggled, to the point where “Fire Norm” is a frequent phrase on message boards, and their have certainly been times when you cant help but feel that kicking Norm on the cold streets of Jamaica, Queens would be the best thing for the men’s basketball program. But that is a mood point, at least, for the time being, as the administration will absolutely not fire Norm during this season. For the time being, the team needs to salvage this season after getting off to a 6-3 start, when a 8-1 start was certainly in reach.

St. John’s needs to continue to improve off of every single effort, to be ready in time, for Big East Competition starting in the New Year. For now they have a couple games this week, versus some easy competition, at the Lou (Carnesecca Arena) that will have huge implications to how this team looks going into conference play, where post season bids are awarded.

Sorry about the long layoff, but certainly more posts to come in the next few months.

Friday, November 17, 2006

St. John's vs. Texas-Halftime

It is currently halftime in the Coaches vs. Cancer third place game and St. John's LEADS Texas 45-44. I can't remember too many times, if at all, that St. John's scored 45 points in the first half, in the last couple seasons. The key to the St. John's early success has been, without question, the outside shooting of Avery Patterson. He already has five three point baskets with a total of 19 points. Daryll Hill is off to a nice start as well, with 7 points, while getting penatraition on a consistent basis.

Hill, Hamilton, and Mason are going to have to pick up the scoring slack more in the second half, unless Patterson can contiune to have a monster game. On defense they can't do much besides limit Kevin Durant to shooting threes' as he did in the first half. Hopefully, he slows down in the second half, as he did last night versus Michgan State when he was held scoreless after the break.

At this point, it doesn't seem that Texas has a ton of offensive depth, so if St. John's can buckle down on Durant and AJ Abrams, they have a reasonable chance to pull off the upset in front of, what looks like a tiny Garden crowd.

Go St. John's.