(PHOTO COURTESY OF ST. JOHN'S RED STORM ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS)
When the news dropped that the BIG EAST's All-Preseason Player of the Year, Marcus Zegarowski wouldn't dress due to an unofficial hamstring issue, thoughts were that if the St. John's Red Storm (6-6, 1-5) were able to make it competitive game against the Creighton Blue Jays (10-2, 6-1), we could see a potential upset in the works. Not the case.
The depth of the Blue Jays offense, and three-point shooting ability was too much for Mike Anderson and the Johnnies, as numerous categories seemed to go in the opposite direction for the road team.
Creighton converted 37-of-68 from the field, and tallied 16 three-pointers in the contest. 10 of those treys, came in the first half. A plethora of shooters that included Alex O'Connell, Damien Jefferson, Ryan Kalkbrenner, Mitch Ballock, and many more, notched points. The biggest takeaway from the first half, were the Blue Jays only had one player, who tallied double-digits in the first 20 minutes.
St. John's was hoping to not have a repeat performance of the 18-point defeat a few weeks ago inside Carnesecca Arena off the finger tips of the aformentioned Zegarowski and Kalkbrenner.
The Red Storm were able to put together a pair of runs that included a 10-1 run in the second half to narrow the Blue Jays' lead to as little as 11, but it seemed too little too late. "Our defense seemed to be a step slow" commented head coach Mike Anderson during his postgame press-conference.
Here are the five takeaways from the contest in Omaha:
1. Three-point defense seemed nearly non-existent:
As previously mentioned, the Blue Jays tallied 10 three-pointers in the first half, with six coming in the final 20 minutes. Mitch Ballock and Denzel Mahoney both tallied four triples each. The aforementioned Alex O'Connell converted a whopping 16 points in just 17 minutes on the hardwood, off the bench too. O'Connell was 6-for-7 from deep, and seemed to be left wide-open a few too many times. The same can be said for many of the triples that were converted this afternoon, where the Blue Jays seemed to convert with no pressure or traffic in front of them.
2. Julian Champagnie records new career-high 33 points:
Do not downplay the fact that sophomore guard Julian Champagnie not only started off the contest on fire, but then seemed to score almost every point in the contest. No not actually the case, but if you watched the game, you'd truly think that. The Brooklyn native also grabbed 10 rebounds, assisted on two buckets, and even tallied three of those 33 points, from the stripe.
In the postgame press conference, Champagnie pointed out that relying on the offense is not the way to beat teams. The defense allowed 17 second-chance points, as well as 13 fast break points.
3. Takes time to build a programs, the right way:
An article came out earlier this week, that brought up a point, where Mike Anderson may not be the answer for the St. John's Red Storm and its future. With the "40 minutes of hell" mentality, and Anderson's focal point being the defense, 97 points twice in one season, isn't a winning formula. But, in Anderson's defense, we have to give the man time, who has never recorded a losing season at Arkansas, or Mizzou, and even in his inaugural season in Queens. Also, we are in the middle of a pandemic, where nothing is normal. Be calm, St. John's fans. A full offseason, with rhythm, is coming. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
4. Effort lacking? Or not enough?:
St. John's came out of the locker room ready to play. As we mentioned previously in the second half, the Red Storm did in fact put together a 10-1 run, in the midst of four consecutive turnovers from the Blue Jays. There were signs of fight. They did not give up in that regard. At points, it was evident that players were lackadaisical on defense. Six different Blue Jays tallied double-digit points throughout the contest. Points in the paint were 38 a piece, and tallied 19 points off 12 turnovers in favor of the Johnnies.
5. Running out of time....in January?
We need to realize that we are in the midst of a pandemic. Something that FOX Sports' Nick Bahe spoke of, was the fact that "winning basketball occurs when you obtain a rhythm, and momentum." We've seen none of that in the previous game against Xavier, and this afternoon at Creighton. The Johnnies are 1-5 in Big East play. Overall, 6-6, but their schedule doesn't get easier, as they host Butler, Marquette, and then travel to UConn. Three teams that St. John's is all capable of playing with, but the rhythm needs to be developed. Yes, it is very hard to do so when you're playing three games in six days, and then one game in 23 days. No excuses.
St. John's welcomes the Butler Bulldogs to Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday, January 12 for a 7 p.m. opening tip. The game can be seen on FS1.