Saint John’s defeated Depaul 79-73 Sunday afternoon in Chicago to move into a tie for first place in the Big East and are now two and oh in conference play for the first time since 2010. Anyone who expected that raise your hand so we can easily identify the liars among you … The game was the sort of exciting basketball that can sometimes occur between two not very good but evenly matched teams. Saint John’s came out flat and were down 12 midway through the first half but went on a 22-7 run after a Mullin time out to take a three point lead. Depaul answered with a 10-1 run of their own and were up seven at half time. Things went back and forth a bit until the middle of the second half when Saint John’s went on a 13-3 run to build a cushion that DePaul couldn’t get past, thanks in part to a leg cramp suffered by Eli Cain, who was in the process of killing us, and some timely for a change free throw shooting. Saint John’s ended up outscoring DePaul 46-33 in the second half which must have been the result of those half time adjustments everyone is always talking about. Congratulations Coach Mullin … The box score was about as even as the game: Saint John’s shot 47 percent from the floor to DePaul’s 42; both teams shot 40 percent from three; rebounds were DePaul plus four, turnovers also. Saint John’s ended up making 16 free throws to 14 for DePaul but most of those were towards the end when DePaul was fouling – before that DePaul got I thought the benefit of a bunch of calls and at one point were about 10 free throws ahead, without which things might have been a bit easier. (I thought the officiating was horrible but it would be mean spirited to call out Jeff Clark, Brent Hampton and James Breeding by name.) The one stat that jumps out is assists: Saint John’s had 18 on 27 made baskets, which might be more than they’ve had recently in entire seasons … Another nice job by the staff, which suggests they might know something about basketball after all. What a relief. Good game plan, solid use of time outs, solid rotation, and of course those half time adjustments. Mullin looks comfortable on the sidelines and energetic and engaged and is beginning to look like a head coach … Number ten Creighton and # 17 Xavier this week and then Georgetown and Villanova the week after that. Steal of those and we’re three and three and middle of the pack in the third week in January. Again, raise your hand if you thought that was possible. I Shirley didn’t.
PLAYERS: Marcus Lovett had the gaudiest numbers – 22 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds – but Darien Williams gets the game ball. His entry in the game in the first half coincided with a 22 to 7 first half run that got Saint John’s back in it and his energy in the second half was the catalyst that helped put DePaul away. Made one suspect play late where he walked away from an uncontested layup in hopes of burning some time off the clock but who cares: twelve points and nine rebounds is an impressive contribution from someone no one expected anything from ever …. Shamorie Ponds had a quiet 15 points and four steals … Fourteen points and 5 rebounds from Ahmed, including 4 of 6 from three … Nine points, five rebounds and four blocks from Tariq Owens. Committed a ridiculous foul on a three point shooter late in the first half with one second on the shot clock … Ellison: eight assists, seven points, six rebound and the box score says no turnovers but I remember yelling at the TV when he nonchalanted a touch pass into the first row so the box score is wrong … Yawke reverted to the fumbling Yawke I thought we might have seen the last of … Alibeoqwitch once again played 10 minutes without committing a personal foul. He did however commit euro-travel … Fredudenbergh played two minutes made a bone headed play and was not seen again … That’s three wins in a row with a certain someone missining from action. I’m not going to draw any conclusions because correlation is not causation but it is interesting and it’ll also be interesting to see what they do with him if and when he comes back because the team seems to be gelling nicely without him.
NOTES: Today of course is New Year’s Day and I trust you all spent last evening reveling into the late hours to the sounds of Guy Lombardo and have by this afternoon broken whatever resolutions you were foolish enough to make yesterday. Me, I went to bed early. To Catholics January One is the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation that formerly celebrated the circumcision of the Baby Jesus. It’s a little surprising that two Catholic universities would schedule a game on so important a day – circumcision symbolizing as it does the covenant between Yahweh and His chosen people – but I guess anything is permitted since everything went to hell after Vatican II … 2016 was not a good year to be a star but was perhaps a boon for those of you sick bastards who participate in Celebrity Death Pools: fatalities last year included politicos Anton Scalia, John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, John “Issue One” McLaughlin; mass murderers Janet Reno and Fidel Castro; traitors Tom Hayden and Daniel Berrigan; sportsmen Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Gordie Howe, Pearl Washington, Nate Thurmond, Ralph Branca and Pat Summit, who towards the end of her life forgot more about basketball than most of us will ever know; novelists Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose), WP Kinsella (Field of Dreams) and Pat “Great Santini” Conroy; musicians Prince, David Bowie, Glen Frey, Leonard Cohen, Mose Allison, Sharon Jones, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Pierre Boulez, Pete Fountain,
alto tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri, Frank Sinatra Jr., and Beatle producer George Martin; actors Debbie Reynolds and daughter Carrie Fisher, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jon Polito, Patty Duke and Gene Wilder; and a slew of television personalities including Abe “Fish” Vigoda, Florence Henderson, Garry Shandling, Pat “Snyder” Harrington, Dan “Grizzly Adams” Haggerty, Man from UNCLE Robert Vaughn, Doris Roberts and my sainted old Italian grandmother’s favorite nun, Mother Mary Angelica. Congratulations winners …. Finally, thanks to all who wrote with feedback following last week’s Arrivederci by Subtraction post, wherein I was less than complimentary about Federico Missini. The gist of many of the complaints I received is that because I think Missini is small, slow, weak, has a bad handle, turns the ball over too much, has a low basketball IQ, and couldn’t cover a mannequin, I’m a racist who’s prejudiced against Italians. (Do you believe that? In this day and age? What the fuck is the world coming to – a Jew broad – prejudiced against Italians.)
The theory seems to be that since I don’t root for Missini because he is Italian I therefore have it in for the eye-ties. Now, never mind for a moment that Italian is a nationality, not a race, so at best I’m a xenophobe; never mind too that my maternal grandfather – who coincidentally was born this day, January 01, 1906 – came WithOut Papers off the boat from Sicily about a century ago and bred to a Gragnano mare from whose spaghetti loins I directly descend; never even mind that I’m a misanthrope who hates everyone equally without regard for race, creed, color or religion. Let us stipulate that that’s all irrelevant. Let us stick to the facts, which are these: what I find odd and ultimately inexplicable re Missini is the solicitude extended to a marginally talented basketball player who would not see the floor on a real basketball team and the rancor directed at those like me who are willing to say out loud that the emperor has no toga. Instead of reasoned conversation about his obvious myriad flaws as an athlete – about which I am happy to admit there can be disagreement, because we all of us have our prejudices – I hear instead how he came here when the program was at its darkest, how hard he works, how he played last year out of position, how he’s a good team mate, how well he represents the university and how he never whines or complains, which even if those things are true and who knows, similar things can be said about pretty much every basketball player who attended Saint John’s since Jarvae’s crew of rapists were expelled and anyway none of those virtues make anyone better at basketball. I’m happy to stipulate that if they did Missini might well be an all-American. But I don’t recall anyone saying that Durand Johnson was a good teammate who never complained, I recall hearing that he was selfish and a chucker. I don’t recall anyone praising Ron Mvouika for coming to Saint John’s when the cupboard was bare, I recall hearing how lucky he was to be able to take advantage of Saint John’s misfortunes to further his career aspirations. I don’t recall hearing that the third leading scorer in Saint John’s history was a good citizen, but I do recall reading a lot about how he was an angry negro with a mohawk and tattoos. There’s a long list of players who never received the credit Missini does for doing what is expected at a bare minimum of every student athlete in Division One – being a good citizen – and many of those guys came from places and circumstances that presented a lot more difficulties than did growing up in bucolic Reggio Emilia. But he’s the one who gets the benefit of the doubt and it’s so passing strange that I’m forced to question the motives of some – some, not all – of his supporters and especially those who find the questioning of their motives disquieting. Consider: I spent in this space three years absolutely clobbering Phil Greene, another one trick pony, gleefully savaging his play and chronicling his every misstep and mishap and blunder. It got to the point where even I thought I was being unfair. Well guess what? In three years not one person complained and no one wrote saying what a good team mate Greene was and not one person called me a racist and Greene’s black. You don’t think that’s a little odd? Because I do … Speaking of Greene, he favorited this tweet of mine from last summer so at least he has a sense of humor. Either that or he didn’t understand it, much like he didn’t know the meaning of the word rebound.