January 27, 2007

UConn just lost at home to Providence. The ‘Nova-ND game should be good. I’m curious about the Syracuse-Louisville game tonight.

Of course, all attention on this game. I really expect this to be disturbingly closer than I’d like. St. John’s matches-up and plays well against Pitt. Plus they are hot at the moment.

I like the play-calling crew. John Sanders on play-by-play with Bob Valvano on color. Valvano is one of the better color-analysts.

4:20: Pitt leads 15-10 under 10 minutes in the half. Really like what I’m seeing from Pitt. A lot more activity from all players trying to get rebounds and just effort in general. Surprising move by Dixon to go small early — Kendall, Cook, Gray and Fields all took an early seat and Pitt did quite well with keeping St. John’s off-balance. Not settling for 3s. Taking it inside.

4:28: Valvano nailed it with Kendall. Giving up the ball to Young was questionable –got away with it — but Kendall had it to throw down if he wanted to. Just failed to be aggressive.

4:30: Pitt up 24-12, 7:49 to half. 50% shooting, Gray has 6 points and 5 boards. Pitt has early control of this as St. John’s has struggled to take care of the ball and shoot.

4:41: I hope this is a good sign for Sam Young, and not just because of inferior competition, but he looks so much better today. Playing with a greater awareness of the whole team not just his own game.

He just took a charge. He’s shot 3-4, and just played like he cares on defense.

4:50: Pitt failed to score for the final few minutes, but because of the lead built up and good defense; Pitt has a 33-23 lead. The 3-point shots aren’t falling today (1-7, Ramon and Fields 0-5) — and it’s the only thing keeping the Red Storm even close (4-10). Everywhere else St. John’s is 4-20.

Hard not to expect more of the same in the second half.

5:10: Pitt leads 40-23, 17:32 left. St. John’s has no energy compared to Pitt. If Pitt sank a couple of the 3s, this would be total blowout. Nice to see them going inside a lot. Also love seeing the whole team going for rebounds. Not just standing and waiting for Gray to corral them.

5:15: Young does know how to kill his own momentum by falling in love with taking 3s. He shouldn’t be taking 4 3-point shots in a game. Let alone by this point in the game (1-4).

5:21: Beauty 3 by Ramon off of Biggs’ screen. That was perfectly executed. It’s nice to see real flashes of knowing how to execute from players who have struggled. Honestly, I was more excited by Biggs’ coming up to set the screen then the 3 from Ramon.

46-29 Pitt.

5:38: Gray got the double-double and now all subs in. 68 points and only Gray and Young reached double digits. Cook has 8, Ramon, Fields and Graves all have 7. Pitt has them outrebounded 39-26. Under 3:30. 68-39 slaughter.

5:46: Pitt has 9 players with more than 10 minutes of playing time. Excellent. Nobody will get over 26 minutes for the game. Considering the next game on the road at ‘Nova; they need to be ready.

Rizk and Polen are in the game with 2:02 left. 68-41.

5:50: 72-46 Pitt wins. Rizk with a nice assist to excite the crowd and especially the bench.

Nice to get an easy home win. Especially when I didn’t think it would be that way.

Red Storm Rising

Filed under: Basketball,Big East,Conference,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 1:17 pm

That’s the meme today. St. John’s is playing well and has won two straight — admittedly at home in both games — over Syracuse and ND. The Syracuse game was more of a shock then the ND outcome. Sure the Irish were ranked, but they had yet to win on the road. Syracuse was looking much better. In both games, St. John’s got off to tremendous starts, building up big leads and then just doing enough to hang on.

I’ve gone on record as saying this is not totally surprising since St. John’s has done this sort of hot run in the Big East the last year or two — before the lack of depth and everything else catches up to them.

Another view is that the Big East is a lot closer in terms of talent this year.

“Last year, there were teams at the top that other teams thought they couldn’t beat,” Roberts said. “Right now, anyone can beat anyone on any given night. The big thing is there is a lot more parity.

“In this league, it’s all about the matchups. You could be playing a team with a [worse] record, but, if you don’t match up with them and you don’t play well, you can get beat.”

The match-up with Pitt has been close the last few years — to great consternation.

Finally, there is the view that the Red Storm are playing better, because their coach finally reached them.

The recent rally started after Roberts sent his team home from practice last Friday and told them to return to the gym at 10 p.m. with an improved mind-set. St. John’s was coming off a 71-63 loss at DePaul, its fourth loss in a row.

“I was disappointed with our effort, so we talked to them about respecting the jersey and the school and playing with pride,” said Roberts, a third-year coach who replaced Mike Jarvis. “I can deal with a loss. If we get beat, then we get beat. But if we get beat, we have to be playing as hard as we possibly can. I think what has changed is their mind-set. They have responded. They have responded to some diversity and toughness, and that’s good.”

Uh-huh. Those are always great stories until they fade in the next losing streak.

Naturally, any trip to Pittsburgh for St. John’s means someone needs to raise the stripper incident.

On Feb. 4, 2004, after a 20-point loss at Pittsburgh, six players went to a Steel City-area strip club and took a 38-year-old woman back to the team hotel for sex in exchange for cash.

That was after coach Mike Jarvis had resigned earlier in the year, after most of the top local prep programs had scratched the Red Storm off their lists after Big East programs such as Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville had risen to prominence with top New York recruits.

The Sexcapades fiasco led to revelations of NCAA violations, self-imposed sanctions and, finally, NCAA penalties. St. John’s had become a college basketball punchline.

That’s rather meaningless,  at this point. The bigger deal will be how Aaron Gray and Lamont Hamilton do against each other.

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