It's a little like a tree in a forest. If a Division I team looses to a Division II team in an exhibition game, on its home court no less, does it really matter?
Well, luckily for the St. John's Red Storm, that question will go unanswered, for a little while anyway. That's because the Johnnies survived San Francisco State, 82 - 80, Saturday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena. The Johnnies survived the Gators making 9-of-18 three-point attempts. Survived the Gators shooting 51 percent from the field. Survived despite turning the ball over 18 times.
Actually, can a team survive a game that doesn't actually count? I mean, I guess it doesn't really matter that the Red Storm trailed by eight points with just over eight minutes to play. Or that it took a D'Angelo Harrison bucket with 17 seconds to play to steal the lead back from San Francisco State for good. It was all just an exhibition, a chance to get some run on the court before the real thing starts up Friday.
Which is why you can probably take the good with the bad in a game like this. The bad, of course, is that the Red Storm looked a little lost on offense and defense throughout most of the game, coming this close from losing to San Francisco State. The good, however, is that Harrison looks to be back in form. The team's leading scorer a season ago poured in 29 points, including going 10-of-12 from the free throw line. And the Red Storm, as a team, collectively did just enough to win.
Harrison getting buckets is expected, another high note from Saturday was the play of Rysheed Jordan.
Still, this game was too close for comfort, even if it doesn't show up in the win-loss column and will be completely forgotten about by next Friday. There were a lot of issues for St. John's, and the question becomes, can they be fixed before Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers start gnawing away at them on Friday?
But as Coach Steve Lavin points out, the areas of concern can be corrected.
"Clearly there are a number of aspects, both offensively and defensively, that we have to clean up. While that’s discouraging, the good news is they are correctable flaws."
Some of those problems will take care of themselves:
- JaKarr Sampson, the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year, will put up better numbers. (Sampson made just one of his eight field goal attempts and finished with just three points.
- Orlando Sanchez, a top 100 JUCO transfer, struggled in his first game in a Red Storm jersey. The Monroe College transfer managed nine points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field. Experience, even in a meaningless game, can only help Sanchez.
- 's over-aggressiveness on defense. The frosh played well on offense, but the kid from Philly tried too much on defense on his way to recording four fouls. (I do have to point out that Jordan also recorded four steals, too.)
And maybe more important than any of the other issues, the biggest and easiest fix is Chris Obekpa. Obekpa missed Saturday's game, and will also miss Monday's, due to a suspension for violating school policy. One of the nation's best shot blockers will be in the lineup Friday, and for the foreseeable future, which will give St. John's a rim-protector on defense and a put-back machine on offense. Just think, for all of Sanchez' struggles on offense, he did pull down 10 boards. If Sanchez can continue to put up those type of rebounding numbers, St. John's will be a force in the paint once Obekpa is back.
So what about the other troubles that plagued St. John's on Saturday? For now, it's about gaining experience for the newbies and continuing the development of experienced players. Ultimately, despite how we're all wired, the scoreboards do not matter in these games. Harrison and Sir Dominic Pointer, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds against the Gators, played the way we thought they would. Jordan and Sanchez, to an extent, for the most part looked as good as advertised. Obekpa's loss was an issue
But we'll all find out more about this version of St. John's soon enough, isn't that right Coach Lavin?
"We're going to get ready to play and compete. We'll have a better idea of ourselves after that game."
In other words, Friday's game with Wisconsin will make some noise, for better or worse.