St. John's has the experience, the talent, and the size to pound the Monmouth Hawks. At least on paper that was the way it looked.
Sure, the Red Storm, playing without freshmen guard Rysheed Jordan, who was suspended for violating team rules, beat the Hawks, 64-54 in the opening round of the Barclays Center Classic at Carnesecca Arena. But sometimes double-digit wins can be misleading.
That's because, when you delve into the numbers further, Monmouth beat up on the Johnnies big men. That's to the tune of outrebounding St. John's (3-1) 44-35, despite battling the likes of last season's Big East Rookie of the Year Jakarr Sampson and top shot-blocker Chris Obekpa in the lane. In fact, the Hawks outscored the Red Storm 32-16 in the paint. Monmouth doubled up St. John's in that stat? The Hawks even scored 13 second chance points.
Red Storm coach Steve Lavin, your thoughts about Monmouth out-muscling your team?
...There are a myriad of areas that we need to improve upon. Monmouth came in and gave a valiant effort on their part, we're not taking anything away from their players who played their hearts out. We have to do a better job of things we can control and I thought defensively we were awful tonight."
Now, it's not like the Red Storm bigs rolled over here. Okekpa swatted 9 Monmouth shot attempts and Sampson did score 14 points and pull down nine rebounds. But the Johnnies struggled with Hawks forward Tyrone O'Garro, 12 rebounds, and guard Deon Jones, six boards.
Really, the first thirty minutes of the game couldn't have gone better for Hawks coach King Rice. By the time intermission came around Monmouth (1-3) trailed by just two points. And just six minutes into the second half, in Queens mind you, the Hawks actually led by two. Disaster was imminent.
That is if not for junior guard Phil Greene IV. For the second straight game Greene led the Johnnies in scoring, 22, hitting 9-of-12 shots, and hit yet another clutch 3-pointer when needed most with just over a minute to play. Greene's second trey of the game was the dagger.
Harrison also contributed 15 big points, including his own big 3-ball that gave the Red Storm a seven point edge, valuable breathing room, with just over four minutes to go.
Jones, the Hawks leading scorer and rebounder, tallied 15 points in defeat, but the Hawks, despite their play inside, struggled against the Red Storm defense. Monmouth was held to 33.9 percent shooting from the field and was just collectively 2-of-18 from distance. Much like against Bucknell on Tuesday, St. John's was able to survive due to its efforts on the other side of the court.
Up next for the Red Storm will be Longwood, as Barclays Center Classic play continues Tuesday at Carnesecca Arena. The big question for that game? I mean, outside of wondering if the Red Storm will play forty full minutes. When will Jordan be back in the lineup?
Lavin did not comment on Jordan's status, but for a team still struggling to find itself, the highly touted frosh will be needed back sooner than later. Especially if St. John's continues to be more paper lion than Red Storm on the basketball court.