At 0-5 in the Big East the St. John’s Red Storm looked like a team unsure of its individual roles and how they fit within the team concept, and despite their individual talent Steve Lavin’s team didn’t look like a group capable of turning things around. But a switch was flipped, and the Red Storm have now won eight of their last nine games after beating Georgetown 82-60 at Madison Square Garden.
D’Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan scored 24 points apiece to lead the way, with Harrison’s three-pointer with 10:29 remaining ending a 17-4 Georgetown run and pushing the Red Storm advantage back out to ten points. Clearly Harrison’s shot was a big moment in the game, and without it maybe the Hoyas continue their charge.
In regards to the St. John’s rotation becoming more comfortable in its individual roles, Jordan’s the player who has made the most progress. Sunday’s scoring effort represents a season-high for the freshman, and during this current run his decision-making has improved substantially. Jordan committed just one turnover, and over the last four games he has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.75.
The understanding of roles has been critical for St. John’s but so has their improved effort on the defensive end of the floor. During this nine-game stretch just four opponents have averaged at least one point per possession, with Georgetown (1.00) barely reaching the mark. Having a shot blocker like Chris Obekpa protecting the rim certainly helps matters, but the improved defense has been a team effort. The Red Storm are playing harder and applying more pressure to the basketball, which has resulted in fewer quality looks for the opposition.
With their best non-conference win coming at the expense of San Francisco, the Red Storm do have work to do in regards to playing their way into the NCAA tournament. But they’ll have opportunities, with games against Villanova, Xavier and Marquette remaining on the schedule. And given their improved play and understanding of what needs to be done, St. John’s has hope, something that couldn’t be said a month ago.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.