Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani -- At the Holiday Festival

by Ray Floriani

New York City - The format of the MSG Holiday Festival went through another alteration. Up until a few years ago it was contested just after Christmas. Since then it has been before December 25th and this season was not a true tournament. No semifinal and final doubleheader -- just a twin bill -- this past Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

The Holiday Festival logo

The scores:

Rutgers67 58Stony Brook
St. John's56 50Fordham

Possession and efficiency:

Stony Brook6688

View of MSG

St. John's6883

Notes & Points of Emphasis
1. Rutgers was tested.
The American East representatives, Stony Brook worked hard on the offensive glass showing a 46-32% edge in offensive rebounding percentage. Rutgers coach Mike Rice pointed out , partially in jest, that his Scarlet Knights (6-5) had too much holiday spirit and were willing to give up second chances to the Seawolves. Stony Brook did not have an easy time finishing those opportunities showing only a 13-9 lead in second chance points. Stony Brook (3-6) basically lived on the perimeter and shot better from three (7 of 24 for 29%) than from two (9 of 36 and 25%). Rutgers shot 56% from two en route to a 54% eFG mark. Both teams had identical and sloppy 24% TO rates. Myles Mack of Rutgers led all scorers with 22 points. The freshman guard did not start but proved the old axiom 'it is more important who finishes rather than starts the game'. Mack used 18% of the Scarlet Knight possessions and obviously was very much involved.

Rutgers coach Mike Rice feels his team was in a holiday mode
giving too many offensive rebounding 'gifts'

2. Fordham is improved
They entered MSG at 4-5. Tom Pecora is getting double figure scoring from three players, none are seniors. Junior Chris Gaston leads at 14.6 PPG while the backcourt of sophomore Branden Frazier (10.0) and freshman Devon McMillan (11.6) has been effective.

Against St. John's there were opportunities. Gaston got inside but struggled to finish. He scored 11 points, grabbed 14 rebounds (5 offensive) but was 4 of 16 from the field. Both clubs failed to hit 40% eFG with Fordham at 36% and St. John's not much better with 38%. The young Ram backcourt did a nice job caring for the ball with a 15% TO rate, compared to St. John's' 22%. Red Storm got the big and arguable game decisive advantage on the offensive glass. They showed a 42-24% dominance in offensive rebounding percentage. God's Gift Achiuwa (5) and Moe Harkness (3) accounted for half of the 16 St. John's offensive boards. Harkness, a 6-8 freshman swing man, had a nice 13 point, 16 rebound double-double.

3. St. John's has concerns
The Red Storm is now 5-5. Beyond the .500 won-lost record are other issues. The exit of Nurideen Lindsey further depletes an already thin squad. In the first half against Fordham the starters went the entire way. For the game, four players put in the full forty minutes. The only one who did not was freshman guard Sir Dominic Pointer who put in 36 minutes and spelled by Malik Stith for only 4 minutes. The biggest concerns in this situation are foul trouble -- the Storm do zone frequently to stay out of that situation -- and injuries. They can ill afford an injury to anyone. With Big East play and its physical nature, practices, plus Winter and the illnesses it can bring coming up, St. John's will be embarking on conference play in a very tenuous circumstance.

The Stony Brook band entertained
and enjoyed their MSG appearance

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