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PU: The Sweet Stench of Success


GAME: That explosion you did not hear last night was the sound of the Steve Lavin regime not imploding. Oh, it was close. Saint John’s oh and three in the Big East, on the road, a player down and a 17 point second half lead suddenly down to three. It was all about to come crashing down, because this was a loss they’d probably never have recovered from. This would have broken them. Even Harrison. But instead they gutted it out and came away with an 83-70 win at Providence Wednesday night. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is that even taking into account all the edge of chair nail biting inherent in a relatively glorious victory in a must win game SJU is still only in 9th place and looking at a long climb to respectability. Fortunately for them (or us for those of we who prefer that) they’ve 6 of their next 8 against the weak sisters in conference, which gives them the chance to be mid pack come the middle of February, when as everyone knows Steve Lavin’s delicate genyious kicks in … There’s really only one thing you need to know about Wednesday’s game: Saint John’s shot a higher percentage from 3 (59) than Providence shot from the FT line (56). That’s a remarkable statistic and even more remarkable considering how awful Saint John’s is at shooting 3s: they’re at 33 percent for the year and if you take out Harrison they’re at 28 percent. Which is pretty appalling. Whereas last night they made 10 of 17. And meanwhile PU missed 11 free throws in seven-point game and nearly everything else they attempted too: they shot a storm-like 40 percent from the floor and 28 from three. All I can figure is that they were still hung over from their 2OT win over Georgetown over the weekend. Because they were flat and awful and even the usually raucous crowd was listless … Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was Jamal Branch did not start. Ha! Just kidding, it’s that Steve Lavin wore a shirt. Who knows what happened. Perhaps he spilled gravy on his dress sweat suit at the pregame meal. Maybe his wife packed for him. Anyway he was dressed appropriately; in other words, Mrs. Fun’s, “he doesn’t look like a psychopath.” Which when you think about it is not a lot to ask for 2 million a year: don’t dress like Richard Speck, and try and win 1 and a half games for every one you lose. Expectations could not be lower. This is a fan base that would consider a first round NCAA tournament loss an enormous leap forward. But I digress. Yes, so Lavin wore a shirt with a collar and in fact if you take the repulsive deformations in the back of Ed Cooley’s head into consideration you could even say that Lavin was the most dapper head coach in the arena. Re the game he subbed appropriately and called at least one time out when I advised him to (that is, he called a time out shortly after I said “take a time out Tesla” to the TV screen) and didn’t cock anything up spectacularly, for which we can all this morning be grateful.

PLAYERS: Harrison had 20 and passed chucker Felipe Lopez on the all- time scoring list. It’s unlikely that he catches Sealy, and as far as 4-year careers go, third is a pretty appropriate place for him … Greene had 20 points, several of them important. But let me tell you something about Phil Greene. He’s a dumb basketball player. One of the dumbest I can remember in a while, and I remember Donald Emanuel and Jason Buchanan like it was yesterday. And because he’s dumb, among his other myriad faults is that he rarely takes a good shot. So even if he scores 20 points, which he does every once in a while, and even if he scores 20 points by taking fewer than 20 shots, rarer still, he’s still dumb, and he still stinks, and I still can’t wait till he gets the hell out. Here’s an interesting statistic about Phil Greene: last night he secured his FOURTH offensive rebound of the year, in over 500 minutes. (By way of contrast Balamou has 6 in 60 minutes.) You’d think you could stand at a random place on the court for 500 minutes and that a missed shot would land in your hands say every 120 minutes, but no, not PG4’s hands. Here’s another whopper: PG4 has attempted 21 FTs for the entire year. (By way of contrast Harrison has over a hundred in about the same minutes.) Here it is by the numbers, FTA per FGA.

DH .50
RJ .50
PG .16
DP .38
CO .58
JB .31

That means that for every 10 shots FG takes, he shoots 2 FTs. Good grief. So to recap, Phil Greene is awful but did not suck as much as usual last night … I have been an active participant on various SJU fan boards for a long time and during that time have learned a great deal about logic and rhetoric. Here’s the sort of syllogism I learned to construct during discussions with various basketball gurus and nostradamuses on those sites over the years:

Rysheed Jordan started.
Saint John’s won.
Therefore SJ won because Rysheed Jordan started.

Addition by subtraction. Try and disprove it, you can’t. … Jordan started because Branch “cut himself.” I think what probably happened is that Branch was overcome with shame at how poorly he plays basketball and attempted to commit hari kari but because he’s Jamal Branch he dropped the knife halfway through the procedure and inflicted only superficial wounds. Get well soon Jamal … I didn’t notice while it was happening but evidently Pointer had 18 points. Twelve of those were from the free throw line, which is 4 FTs fewer than Greene has made all year … In a performance sure to impress any NBA scouts in the audience watching LaDontae Henton, Chris Obekpa scored  2 points before fouling out in 23 minutes … Branch’s failed suicide attempt meant more minutes for the bench. Jasilionus II got most of them , 4 points, two rebounds; shot-a-phobic Balamou had two FG attempts, making one and blowing the other at the rim; JDLR showed little.

NOTES: The game was called by Liza Minelli John Stockton, formerly a respected broadcaster. Stockton was relatively coherent during the early part of the game but later on as it got past his bedtime he seemed to have a harder time keeping up. For example, towards the end of the game Vin Parise opined that SJ was doing a good job attacking the basket, rather than using up the shot clock in an attempt to not lose, to which Stockton replied to the effect that yes, SJ had every reason to be patient on each offensive possession. Which is fact the opposite of what Parise said. Probably they both were wrong. Anyway Dick, it’s over, get out … Another interesting cut in to a Lavin TO, where in we heard the Lavin tell his players to give them a little “salt and pepper.” I was disappointed that we did not see enough of the TO to get the full context. Was Lavin perhaps giving the injured Jamal Branch a recipe for some nice cacciatore he could make while convalescing? (Unlikely, as Branch is a vegan.) Was he describing to foreigner Alba Albavokiovich which hip hop trio is best for getting American women in the mood to push it real good? (I swear by the Geto Boys.) Personally I’d like to think he was telling them that they’[d be watching on the ride back to the city his favorite Rat Pack movie Salt and Pepper, in which Peter Lawford plays Chris Pepper and Sammy Davis Charlie Salt, two groovy nightclub owners in swinging 60s London who thwart a plot to overthrow her majesty’s government and get the girls. It’s a gas man … Speaking of the Geto Boys, it ain’t shit: