Entering tonight’s game against Michigan State, St. John’s was coming off of a string of solid performances in their first three games. While their last outing against the Spartans conference-mate Minnesota ended in a loss, it was a game St. John’s was able to keep close to the end.
With that potential in mind, tonight’s game against the Spartans on the floor of the Imperial Arena in the Bahamas as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis represented another tough test for the young Johnnies. This game, along with the next few days, are the toughest stretch that St. John’s will play until the start of conference play. Once again, they held their own for much of the game, but could not hold off the physical play of Michigan State in the end, falling by a score of 73-62.
It was an odd affair, as neither team looked fully up for it in the opening stretches of the game. Much like last time out against Minnesota, St. John’s managed to build a manageable lead early on. Getting the score up to 27-22, before the Spartans went on a late five minute run to close the half with a lead of 32-29.
From that point, the Johnnies once again were playing a game of close catch up with the Spartans for the majority of the second half. They were able to reach short lead again of 43-42 early on in the second, but that would be the high water mark for St. John’s as Miles Bridges and Michigan State would take hold of the game from that point on.
While they did play it close in terms of scoreline, the box score for tonight’s game paints a different story as St. John’s, once again, had more valleys than peaks in terms of player performance. The man of the evening was Marcus LoVett. Despite this being his first season, he is playing like has has been here for years. In Wednesday’s game, LoVett led the way with 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and tied for the lead in rebounds at seven with Bashir Amed, who had 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Shamorie Ponds was St. John’s secondary leading scorer on the night with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
As a team, the Red Storm shot at a rate of 31% from the floor, 36% from 3-point range, and 74% from the foul line. It was an off night with the three ball, especially from Ponds, who has been a key asset at range for St. John’s. The Red Storm were also out rebounded by Michigan State at a rate of 54 to 33, but on the reverse side of things had fewer turnovers compared to the Spartans only coughing up the ball six times compared to St. John’s 14 turnovers.
Fouls once again found their way into limiting St. John’s abilities this game as they became an issue early on. Bashir Ahmed received a technical late in this game and, along with Tariq Owens, fouled out.
As for Michigan State, Miles Bridges was the main man for the Spartans. He led the way with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Following his efforts were Eron Harris, with 14 points and Lourawis Nairn Jr. with 13 points. As a team, the Spartans shot the ball at a rate of 43% from the floor, 38% from 3-point range, and 64% from the foul line. They also saw a lot production from their bench, posting 20 of their 73 points from rotations.
Wednesday’s game does not end St. John’s fun in the Bahamas just yet. Next up on the docket for the Red Storm is a game Thursday against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams, who lost earlier Wednesday to Baylor to kick start the Battle 4 Atlantis festivities. Hopefully St. John’s can move on and improve in their next game before the end of this tournament.