Overall, I must say that I'm somewhat disappointed in what I saw from the Aggies in New York. I suspected they would have some issues with defensive foot speed at the guard position with Elston Turner and Jordan Green, but I really expected better man-on-man fundamentals with Dash Harris and Jamal Branch. The Aggie backcourt can't stay with high D-1 guards going to the paint and that creates easy baskets or trips to the free throw line.
I'll be the first in line to say the officiating .was skewed heavily toward the Red Storm. There was definitely home cooking in that second half. SJU shot 35 free throws to A&M's 3. But it wasn't all about the refs. The SJU guards penetrated past the guards into the paint and then drew fouls all day long against the post players coming over to help.
On the other hand, today's A&M offense looked identical to what we saw last year....Dash Harris, Elston Turner, and Jamal Branch dribbling in circles 40 feet from the basket not putting any pressure on the opposing defense which is why A&M didn't get to the line.
Now, A&M matched up better with SJU because they didn't have a very long front court and the Aggie posts took early control of the boards grabbing 11 first half offensive rebounds. In addition, the offense worked hard to go down low to the posts, and while they got some good looks because of the lack of length, the bigs were simply missing point blank putbacks and short shots around the rim. That kept SJU in the game along with the free throws.
Here are a few specific observations from today:
1) Those ready to promote Jamal Branch to the #1 PG spot may have been a bit premature. Branch certainly has a much higher ceiling, but he's still a freshman and he made some critical unforced errors...dribbling out front not really initiating the action and simply losing the ball. He had a team high five turnovers and only two assists, and I still think his defense should be much better than it is. He'll get there, but he's not there yet.
2) On the other hand, Dash Harris had a much better game, although the excessive dribbling up top drives me crazy. He had some very nice assists including two to start the second half on an 8-0 run. He finished with 6 assists and only 2 turnovers and a whopping four steals. Dash will have you pulling your hair out, but he's the only guard right now that can pressure the ball and make things happen. The other guards are on their heels. The key is for the staff to drill it in his head that he can win games with his defense and assists, not his scoring.
3) David Loubeau was hosed all day, picking up two cheap fouls in the game's first four minutes and he eventually fouled out playing only 13 minutes. For the offense to click, Loubeau needs to be in there attracting defensive attention inside.
4) Offensively, the team must find more touches and shots for Elston Turner. He hit a couple of shots early and he had the crucial game winner with 6 seconds left and he did it on his own. He has proven that he can create his own shot and the staff needs to create some plays for him to get the ball. It beats watching Dash dribble in circles.
5) Despite an unexpected baby hook basket by Keith Davis in the second half that was big, overall he has regressed to the point that I don't know if you can count on him for the 10 minutes you are giving him. He's having a hard time securing rebounds. He's made some defensive mistakes which was his strong suit last season. A&M was lucky on that last missed free throw as he simply let the SJU player behind him push him aside and he was ready for the easy putback but the free throw was so hard off the back iron that it bounced over his head.
6) Ray Turner struggled with some easy putbacks and it appeared he was still reeling from being physically dominated by MSU's big men. He redeemed himself in the second half but he and Roberson must have missed 5-6 point blank putbacks. A&M is having enough troubles scoring. They have to get the easy ones. But the issue all year will be the opponent's length. A&M bigs will struggle against Florida, Baylor, and Kansas. Luckily, Texas isn't strong or very long in the post this year.
7) It will help to get Khris Middleton back as he seemed to have a more rounded game before he tweaked his knee. This offense desperately needs him. You won;t be able to win many scoring 58 points.
Hop's Game Analysis - St. John's
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