While Sunday’s matchup with No. 2 Syracuse was billed as a big game for St. John’s, the Red Storm didn’t show up at Madison Square Garden ready to play in a game of that magnitude. Poor shot selection and play that at times seemed somnambulant resulted in a double-digit deficit, with a Rysheed Jordan basket as time expired cutting the Syracuse lead to 39-27.
Turns out that Jordan’s basket was the boost Steve Lavin’s team needed, and on an afternoon that saw the Red Storm shoot 1-for-17 from beyond the arc in their 68-63 loss to Syracuse there are positives to be taken from the result. The biggest positive may be the performance of Jordan in the second half, as his play on both ends of the floor allowed the Red Storm to not only close the margin but take a lead down the stretch.
Offensively the freshman from Philadelphia, who was one of the nation’s most talented point guard prospects coming out of Vaux High School, may not have shot particularly well from the field (2-for-8 FG) but his ability to attack the Syracuse zone off the dribble opened things up for the Red Storm. He also got the foul line, where he connected on all nine attempts. And defensively Jordan was a key factor in the Red Storm’s ability to keep Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis out of the lane for much of the second half.
A player who had some growing up to do and was even suspended for a game earlier this season, Jordan took a step in the right direction on Sunday afternoon. And if the Red Storm are to make a run at an NCAA tournament berth they need the freshman to build on his 13-point outing. D’Angelo Harrison scored 21 points to lead the way, and St. John’s put together much of its second half run with Jakarr Sampson on the bench with four fouls. Also, the rebounding (12 offensive rebounds) and foul shooting (20-for-26) kept the Red Storm alive despite their poor perimeter shooting. So there are clearly positives to be taken out of the defeat.
But they must become a more consistent team when it comes to perimeter shooting, regardless of their ability to make plays off the dribble. Entering Sunday’s game the Red Storm scored just 20.5% of its points on three-point shots, a percentage that ranked ninth in the Big East and will drop given their performance against Syracuse. And with it being likely that this group that has multiple slashers will see more zone as the season wears on, as opponents will aim keep them out of the lane, St. John’s needs to make strides in this area.
If Harrison, Jordan and the rest of the Red Storm can improve their perimeter shooting and late-game execution, they have the talent needed to be a factor in the Big East.