Friday, February 11, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Connecticut at St. John's

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - St. John's continued their winning ways over ranked opposition at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm dominated UConn in the second half en route to an 89-72 rout of the Huskies. NCAA bid talk is heating up in Queens.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun figures the game was decided about the "time the ball was tossed for the opening tip." Actually the first half was close with four ties and two lead changes. St. John's took a 35-31 lead into the break.

the packed Garden

A look at the numbers:

St. John's71125

An efficiency of 100 will get you a lot of wins. Especially a team as UConn who holds opponents to a 97 efficiency on the defensive end. Problem is, giving up an OE of 125 is too generous if you have designs on winning.

The Four Factors:

St. John's56323814

Scoreboard tells the final score, and some stats

Calhoun was right is assessing the statistical categories. Granted, their TO rate was a percentage point better than St. John's but not much to make a significant difference.

Dwight Hardy (33 points) was unconscious from the perimeter burying open looks in transition. Hardy was 5 of 8 from three and the Storm shot 9 of 17 (53%) beyond the arc. But the truth of the matter as revealed by the tempo-free stats is St. John's ruled the lane. They got to the line more (FT rate), a product of inside effectiveness. St. John's owned a 40-18 points in the paint edge. The Storm also enjoyed a 27-2 advantage in fast break points.

The first four minutes of the final half saw St. John's inflict severe damage. At the 16 minute (to go) media time out, the Red Storm held a 14 point lead. The numbers over that stretch:

St. John's613217

A lot of the damage inflicted by St. John's in the paint was not by straight posting up. Transition and dribble penetration accounted for much of the carnage. Regardless, whether it is a traditional past to the post or drive to the basket. Having the opposition get easy access to the lane drives opposing defense and coaches crazy.

Defensively, St. John's utilized pressure then fell back into a matchup zone for the half court defense. Coach Steve Lavin felt the St. John's pressure, while not forcing turnovers, did wear UConn down and render them lass than effective in attacking the zone. Too many times, especially the final half, a few perimeter passes were made before the Huskies settled on a three point attempt. They did shoot 41% from three (7 of 15 for 47% the second half) but Calhoun, perplexed over his club's inability to solve the St. John's zone wanted better offensive execution. "We have seen about 160 minutes straight through four games of zone," he said. "You would think they could handle it by now."

St. John's cheerleaders celebrate

UConn was led by Roscoe Smith with 16 points. The Huskies had four in double figures, a deceptive stat.

Hardy's 33 paced all scorers while D. J. Kennedy added 20 points. UConn is 18-5 (6-5 in the Big East). St. John's improved to 14-9 (6-5). Lavin felt a win here was crucial coming off a loss at UCLA over the weekend. "It was a great feeling being out there," Hardy said. "We gave all for 40 minutes and came off a couple of good days in practice. When we play like this we are fun to watch." Except from the opposite bench.

Kemba Walker, the player of the year candidate for UConn, scored 15 points with 7 assists. He had only 6 points the second half and three coming on a very late trey with the game well in hand favoring St. John's.

A look at Hardy and Walker with the 'Manley efficiency' applied:

D. Hardy34350.971

While Hardy posted an outstanding 'raw' efficiency and efficiency per minute, teammate D. J. Kennedy also turned in an extremely impressive efficiency of 31.

Crowd of 13,652 attended the MSG contest. And the St. John's fans, as well as cheerleaders and dance team, made the atmosphere electric. Like the days of past.

"This was big for us. For our resume,
Big East Tournament seed and
defending our home turf" - St. John's Steve Lavin

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