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For the road team, the Red Storm have won five of their first six games this season and have improved quite a bit. Head coach Mike Anderson has a better feel (and roster) to aid him in his second season at the helm of St. John’s, and that will be evident in the following months to come. Sophomore Julian Champagnie is in line to become one of the best players inside the Big East due to his current averages of 22 PPG and 7 RPG.
There’s a dynamic and versatile three-guard rotation between Vince Cole (13 PPG), Greg Williams Jr (12 PPG), and freshman Posh Alexander (9 PPG and 5 APG) that is not only aiding Champagnie but carrying their weight. And if this means anything to anyone, the Johnnies are showing they can win in different ways too.
The Hoyas have given the Red Storm fits with their physicality and height — and disruption. In three games last season against Georgetown, the Red Storm mustered assist rates of over 50% once (in a one-point loss). The Johnnies were not always prolific in sharing the ball — though in Big East play, they averaged assists on 57% of their shots — but Georgetown particularly used their length to slow them down and make the team be outside shooters.
“Shooting team” is not an identity this team can take on at this point in the season; the Johnnies have to get at least touches/ penetration in the paint even if taking available outside shots. When they have shot after passing the ball on the perimeter, the results — for all players — have been poor. The potential is there to be better that the 30% the team currently shoots from outside the arc, but at their best, this is a team that uses the pass to attack quickly upcourt.
Following its first loss of conference play, the Johnnies (5-2, 0-1 Big East) will remain on the road to take on its rival, the Georgetown Hoyas (2-3, 0-1 Big East). Mike Anderson‘s team fell in a highly contested matchup with Seton Hall on Friday afternoon while Patrick Ewing‘s team lost hours later in heartbreaking fashion against No. 9 Villanova.
Despite the commonalities of a loss, both games could not have been more different as the Red Storm were battling from behind from the opening tip against the Pirates while the Hoyas blew an 18-point lead at home to the Wildcats, eventually losing by 13 points. Georgetown was held to 17 points the second half, following a first half where the Hoyas exploded for 46 points.
Jamorko Pickett of the Hoyas recorded his second straight double-double on Friday after posting team-high totals in points (16) and rebounds (10) against the Wildcats. Pickett had his way with St. John’s last season, recording 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in an 87-66 win on Jan. 8. He added 13 points and 10 boards in Georgetown’s 75-62 loss to the Red Storm on March 11 in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
Jahvon Blair didn’t fare as well in both of last season’s meetings with St. John’s, and he sputtered by his standards on Friday. Blair, who averages a club-best 18.4 points this season, was limited to just 11 for a Georgetown team that was outscored 43-17 in the second half.
Last night, St. John’s shot 19% from beyond the arc. NINETEEN PERCENT. That number is unacceptable and shooting that poorly makes it almost impossible to win a game. The fact that they were able to stay in this one until the end while shooting at such a poor clip is a testament to their strong defense. In order to secure their first Big East win against the Hoyas tomorrow, they must shoot better than 19% from deep.
One of of the biggest things I want to see tomorrow is Mike Anderson working to get Rasheem Dunn back to old form, while also getting Posh back to being involved offensively. Rasheem Dunn averaged 11.9 points a year ago, making himself the only returning player who averaged double digit scoring. He can be a catalyst for the offense at times by driving hard to the hoop, getting to the free throw line a bunch, and creating shots for others. Getting Rasheem Dunn back and involved in the offense like he was a year ago will create more opportunities for a guy like Vince Cole to be looking at more open threes.
Dunn, the slashing, defense-minded fifth-year senior who was such a focal point of last year’s team, was somewhat forgotten after he was a non-factor in the opener against St. Peter’s and missed the next five games with a concussion.
But in his return, Dunn made an impact, scoring 10 second-half points in a 77-68 loss to Seton Hall at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
In 16 minutes, Dunn shot 5-of-10 from the field, had three steals and posted a plus-five rating. He was instrumental in the Red Storm’s comeback attempt from a 12-point, second-half deficit, getting into the lane and creating problems for the Pirates.
“I think it’s important [to have him back],” coach Mike Anderson said of Dunn, the team’s leading returning scorer. “I think what it does is it gives our backcourt a little bit more strength.