Road wins have not come easy for St. Johns this season, and their victory against Cincinnati was no exception. They started off and finished like a roller coaster ride, with their intensity going up and down as the game progressed.
Within the first few minutes they were up 9-4 but allowed the Bearcats to go on a 10-0 run to take the lead. St. Johns proceeded to go on their own run and never looked back until Cincinnati stormed back late in the second half when the Bearcats came back from a 12-point deficit.
In then end, St. Johns came out with the victory because of Cincinnati fouls since they could not make a single field goal in the last nine minutes of the game. St. Johns is now seventh in the Big East (behind West Virginia), and although they were victorious, there is a lot Steve Lavin needs to work on.
Lavin's press on inbound passes executed by the Red Storm defense was spectacular. With senior guard Malik Boothe leading the defensive attack, they were able to force turnovers leading to easy points, a coaches dream.
On the other hand, the first half showed their full-court press still needs some work. Once the ball crosses the half-court line, it seems as if their defense collapses.
The Bearcats would get the ball inside the three point line and the Red Storm defense would be able to crowd around the ball. Somehow the ball would make its way out and after one or two quick passes, there is a Cincinnati player shooting a wide open three point shot.
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In the first half, Cincinnati's back up guard, Sean Kilpatrick went 4-7 from outside the arc. Although he missed three shots, the three attempts were uncontested. Had St. Johns been playing a team with better shooters (i.e. Syracuse's Brandon Triche) who would make all of their open three point shots, they would've allowed a bench player to have 21 points.
Putting pressure on an offense is great, but when players cannot get back to the opponents they leave open, it needs to be acknowledged by the coaching staff and improved.
Although they did not make a field goal in the last nine minutes of the game, there were bright spots in the St. Johns offense.
One of these spots helped St. Johns throughout the game was ball movement. Just like their strong press on inbound passes, their ability to move the ball around produces better shots for one another.
A great example of this was the ball movement between guards Dwight Hardy, Malik Boothe and forward Justin Brownlee. The three combined for 40 of St. Johns 59 points with Hardy leading in points, Boothe in assists and Brownlee in rebounds. No matter which of the three had the ball, smart passes were followed by better good shots which allowed St. Johns to build the 12 point lead they had at one point.
Against a team that is very much a mirror image of themselves, St. Johns was able to show their strengths but at the same time some key weaknesses that will be important to change when March rolls around.
If St. Johns continues to move the ball well while on offense and avoid turnovers, which will create better shot opportunities for their teammates, there is no limit to how many points they will score in the future.
On defense, they need to work on their press and how to get back to open men or else they will have a tough road ahead of them. All in all it was a good victory for the Red Storm as they moved up in the Big East standings and look to travel to Marquette on Tuesday for another tough Big East matchup.