RECAP: Here’s what I won’t be saying in today’s recap of Saint John’s 53-47 win over the Saint Mary’s Gaels Friday night: there will be nothing about it being gritty or gutsy, I’ll omit talk about anyone leaving anything on the floor, and there’ll be an absence of information about giving anyone credit for halftime adjustments. I’ll leave that talk for the rubes. Instead, I’ll be talking about the worst 40 minutes of basketball I’ve been forced to endure for quite a while: 67 missed field goals, 16 missed free throws, 25 turnovers, and all of that slowed to a glacial stagger by a personal foul call a minute by a crew of referees who spent more time reviewing tape of the game than Lavin will and all of that narrated nonstop by Jim Spanarkle, who should consider switching to decaf. Or valium … So yes, SJU won, and that’s good, because a home loss to a WAC team not called Gonzaga would not look so good on the great and powerful resume down the line. And yes, they overcame some adversity in doing so, although the adversity was mostly self-inflicted: in the first half they started slow, played lackadaisically, and were unprepared for Brad Waldow, the best player they’ve faced all year. All of which added up to a 15 point halftime deficit. Fortunately for Saint John’s in the second half Saint Mary’s imploded, scoring only 14 points on 6 made baskets and favoring SJU with a flurry of unforced and embarrassing turnovers. SJU was also able to take Waldow out of the game – much credit to Dom Pointer – whose teammates responded by shooting 3 for 20 from the floor. Which is not particularly very good … For the game SJU shot an atrocious 38 percent from the floor, an appalling 26 percent from three, and a pathetic 57 percent from the foul line. Unbelievably Saint Mary’s was worse: 34 percent from the floor, 15 percent from three and 52 percent from the line. For the latter we once again credit Lavin’s brilliantly conceived “quicksand” free throw defense: SJU opponents are now shooting 108 for 180 for the year (60 percent) and the entire WAC conference slightly worse than that: 24 for 42 (57 percent) … According to Lavin – resplendent in a red sweat suit – last night’s SMG game and Monday’s versus Long Beach State “allow us to simulate conditions we’ll face in the NCAA Tournament.” I’m not sure what conditions Lavin is referring to, since the games are at home, there were 4600 in attendance, the two teams they’re against will likely be in the NIT, and if SJU loses against either the season doesn’t end. Other than that he made his usual good points.
PLAYERS: Pointer double doubled. As noted above, he played superior defense in the second half when SJU shut Waldow down. Pointer took a not so veiled shot at Obekpa in the post-game presser when he noted that “When [Chris] was in foul trouble, it was better for us” … Harrison ground out 21 points in a subpar effort. Only one rebound, six below his season average … Obekpa fouled out for the second time this year, making him 2 for 2 against the WAC. Shortly before doing so and after finally blocking a shot by Brad Waldow Obekpa stood under the opposing basket woofing and flexing while his teammates pushed the ball up the court. Which is not the first time that’s happened this year. To the extent that I am able to exercise empathy I try and give Obekpa and all his affectations – the stupid grin, the shorts, the finger wagging, the woofing, the chippy play and bullying – the benefit of the doubt, because he is after all a foreigner and perhaps not familiar with the cultural conventions and customs of his adopted homeland. But the fact is that he behaves very childishly for someone who pretends he’ll be playing in the NBA next year. I’d wonder why his coach – who blathers about character when it suits him – does nothing to rein him in, except I know he’s worried about his contract exten$ion …. Poor Rysheed Jordan had 6 points on 2 for 11 shooting coming off the bench again. Pretty obviously he presses when he doesn’t start in an attempt to make an immediate impact … Clank clank clank clank clank clank clank clank. No, that clatter is not the sound of eight reindeer up on the roof bringing presents to all the good little boys and girls. It’s the sound of Phil Greene shooting 1 for 9 from the floor. This sound – – is the sound of the no assists he got. All of which makes our shooting guard 4 for 21 from the floor over his past two games, with no assists. Take away the three minutes he played against Syracuse a month ago and what do you have? Avery Patterson … Joey DeLaRosa made his season debut and played up to his billing: he’s a large slab of beef comprising 300 pounds and five fouls. He gave one particularly well, sending a bloodied SMG guard to the bench for about 20 minutes after cracking him across the nose with a forearm after a whistle. In a game where 40 fouls were called the only one that drew blood was ignored … starting PG Jamal Branch was once again pointless: 2 points 2 assists
NOTES: Saint Mary’s is coached by Randy Bennett, who’s 286 –137 (.677) at SM in 12 years, including 5 NCAA appearances and a Sweet 16. Since 2008 he’s 184 – 54 and has won less than 25 games only once … Saint Mary’s is founded on the teachings of John Baptist de La Salle, a Frenchman, the patron saint of teachers, and the father of pedagogy. None of which three things seem worthy of an entire university but maybe that’s just me. Be that as it may, with victories over the Jesuits and now the Lasallians Saint John’s has triumphed over more Christian factions than the Mamalukes … There are six Saint Marys in the Catholic hierarchy, three of whom had front row seats at the crucifixion: Mary mother of the baby Jesus – in the dark recesses of my fallen away Catholicism I recall Mary being something more than a mere saint, but memories, like faith, fade; Mary Salome, aunt to the baby Jesus; and the hewer Mary Magdalene. Other Marys include Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha, who protested to the baby Jesus that He should not raise her brother Lazarus from the dead because “he stinketh”; Saint Mary of Egypt, who lived her life as a man and was the patron saint of beggars; the stigmatist Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds; and Saint Mary MacKillop, a 20th century Australian who was at one point excommunicated for abusing alcohol to alleviate her severe dysmenorrhea, aka menstrual distress, which sent her to bed several days a month. If boozing and PMS are preconditions for canonization someone should contact the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, because I have a couple of ex-girlfriends who deserve beatification.