If you only watched the first half of Wednesday night’s game between the St. John’s Red Storm and the Indiana Hoosiers, you would have walked away believing that Indiana was well on their way to an easy win. The Hoosiers, up to that point, were up by 12 points and the Red Storm were down a player with the ejection of Montez Mathis following the assessment of a flagrant 2 foul.
The second half of the game felt like a full game in its own right, though, as whatever Mike Anderson said to his Red Storm team at the half woke them up for a long fight in the second to claw back into the game. They came close, oh so close, to knocking off the Hoosiers, but in the end came up just with Indiana winning by a score of 76 to 74.
Had St. John’s won, the Big East would have clinched a victory in the Gavitt Tipoff Games for the first time since the series began back 2015. Still though, there is a lot to parse from this game as it was the duality of Red Storm basketball. The first half being an uncoordinated effort with a feeling that Indiana had in some capacity figured out Anderson’s defensive scheme. The figuring out part was the Hoosiers taking a front foot approach matching aggressive play with aggressive play, setting the tempo for what would be a slugfest. It was certainly in starting off aggressive that caught St. John’s off guard
As mentioned earlier, the standout play was the Mathis flagrant two where St. John’s guard Montez Mathis was assessed a flagrant two and ejection for a rather ugly play on Indiana’s Trey Galloway, in which Galloway was going up for the layup and Mathis collided in and pulled on Galloway’s arm leading to Galloway crashing to the floor. It appeared to be the right call in terms of it being flagrant but not necessarily the right call for a flagrant two. From that point Indiana pretty rolled through the remainder of the first half though St. John’s started to get their act together as the half drew a close. Oddly enough Julian Champagnie might have had the quietest 17 point half, but was slowly putting together something special.
This all leads into a wild, and frankly, interesting second half as St. John’s definitely woke up and gave Indiana the fight of their lives. A fight that sadly came up short but certainly put the fear into the heart of the Hoosiers. The defense woke up with the pressure to bend and break Indiana on offense and on the offensive side of the Julian Champagnie went off to conclude his night with a solid 32 point game on 12-of-22 shooting. Though the other two big factors for the Red Storm were Posh Alexander’s driving, which even though he did not have exactly the best of games, was still able to use his court vision to create and move on offense for the Johnnies to operate. Six assists after all is still a solid night of moving the ball, but the other offensive spurt was Stef Smith providing a scoring touch for 16 points as the best secondary scoring option. Although weirdly Rafael Pinzon despite having only 5 points on the night off the bench had some of the biggest shots in the game including a three pointer to help claw the game ever closer in the Johnnies favor.
Reading this, you might feel that at some point St. John’s had taken the lead in the second half. Sadly that did not happen as even though St. John’s was able to claw their way back into the game getting rebounds, steal and riding the shots of Champagnie and Smith the Hoosiers had enough in the tank to hold on. It might have been a case of Indiana just having enough in this case enough on the offensive side of the ball to see the game out. Trayce Jackson-Davis was as good as advertised with a double-double night of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Among those points was his 1,000th point as a Hoosier. Joining his effort was a 15 point game from Race Thompson, a solid 12 point night from Miller Kopp, and an 11 point game off the bench from Tamar Bates. On a side note the 12 point game by Kopp was his best game so far as he has had a slow start to the season.
As a team, St. John’s shot the ball at a rate of 43.1% from the floor, 33.3% from beyond the arc, and 78.9% from the foul line. Indiana on the other hand shot the ball at a rate of 51.7% from the floor, 33.3% from beyond the arc, and a rather dismal 52.6% from the foul line. It was an even split on the boards with both teams getting 34 total rebounds each. In terms of fouls with the exception of the Mathis call only Posh Alexander and Joel Soriano were the only two players to end up in serious foul trouble with four each and Xavier Johnson was the only player from Indiana to find himself in the same predicament finishing the night with four fouls as well.
Although it would have been nice to have seen St. John’s win this won in a comeback fashion, this is one of these losses that is still impressive in its own right. For one thing it showed that St. John’s can hang with tough opposition and for another that this team can be in it for the long haul. It is not a particularly enviable position to want to square up against this Red Storm team. Next up on the docket is Fairleigh Dickinson for St. John’s