Friday, January 29, 2010

St. John's Post Game: Ebb and Flow

The Homecoming, Part 2
Coach Wright's first head coaching job was Hofstra Univesity, a D1 program and member of the Colonial Athletic Association Conference. And located on Long Island, just east of New York City. Coach Wright has scouted the talent in the New York metropolitan area, maintained contacts with local high school and AAU coaches and has persuaded a steady stream of New York and New Jersey high school players to take their college educaton on the Mainline. Home-and-home contracts with Stony Brook and Fordham, unusual in an era of guarantee games, are common with Villanova but carry an ulterior motive. The Wildcats want games that New York and northern New Jersey fans (and prospects) can get to easily.

The Official website has an AP wire story, some post game notes and the box score. The breakdown by halves...

OpponentSt. John's 
 Offense Defense

Notes & Observations
1. Possessions for each half was very consistent. I did not have that impression as I watched the game.
2. Strong scoring from the field in the first half was undermined (for both teams) by turnovers. Note that both Villanova and St. John's lost over a quarter of their possessions. For Villanova, the culprit was, to a significant degree, steals by St. John's. Villanova point guards Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns in particular had two turnovers apiece.
3. Villanova's first half offensive rebounding was weaker than usual. The Johnnies' front and back court contingents can split credit, even as they did the defensive rebounds -- each group had 6.

Did St. John's Hit the Wall?
Among other questions asked in the post game press conference, one that was asked several different ways (reporters are funny that way...if they don't get the answer they want/expect, they simply rephrase the question and ask again...or get a colleague to) was whether the Red Storm team had not learned how to close out an opponent yet. The observation was that they had "stayed with" the Wildcats for 30 or so minutes, but could not "finish". I decided to break the game down into four minute segments to look a the scoring. How long did the Johnnies stay with the 'Cats?

Game ScorePts. in Segment
1st half
2nd half

Though not timed to the minute, the segments suggest that while St. John's came out strong in the second half and turned back a Villanova 19-9 run that closed out the first half by adding a point back onto their lead, the tide was turning before the 30:00 minute mark of the game (before the 10:00 minute mark of the second half). An 8-3 run through the segment that marked the first 28 minutes had put the Wildcats back on top. The next 4 minute segment (28:00 through 32:00) continued the Villanova run by adding another seven points onto the Wildcats' lead. the teams traded points and possessions through the end of the game. By the 32:00 minute mark it was pretty much over.

A Funny Thing Happened in the Post Game Presser
I have learned there is a rhythm and flow to questions at post game press conferences, apparent if one hears the post game pressers typically televised after each NCAA tournament game. One reporter was interested in player and coach (from both teams) reactions to Scottie Reynolds as the Big East Player of the Year. Variations of this question found their way into the several exchanges in the Villanova segment. Scottie and Coach Wright (Reggie Redding, the other Wildcat present at the conference did not offer an opinion) did not seem prepared for that one. Was it "out of context"? Or had they simply not considered the possibility that Scottie would be a serious alternative to preseason favortie Luke Harangody? I suspect it was a little of both. The coach talked about focusing on the games and letting the team (and Scottie's) performance "make the case". A good answer, but it did take him a few sentences to fix on it as "the response". The same reporter raised the question to the St. John's players during their post game interview. Seated as bookends to Coach Norm Roberts, Malik Stith and DJ Kennedy looked at each other after the question had been posed. Clearly they had not anticipated the question either. Stith fielded the question (and did a good job under the circumstances) and complemented Scottie's play with "He's a big shot taker and a big shot maker. He doesn't worry about missing, he focuses on his next shot...".

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