Johnnies set eyes on Wagner

The Red Storm (0-1) started their season with a loss against Wisconsin, marred by a poor defense surrounding the perimeter where they allowed Wisconsin to shoot for 48 percent from the arc.

The team took notice and plan to make adjustments ahead of Friday’s home opener against Wagner.

“We watched film … we needed it, woke up, saw what we had to do and we’ll take care of it,” junior guard D’Angelo Harrison said. “[Wagner has] a lot of good guards. We scouted the whole week so we know they’re a good team, we’ll be prepared.”

Reflecting on their loss to Wisconsin in the season opener, head coach Steve Lavin and company shifted their focus on the defensive end of the floor, primarily defending from the perimeter and looking to force the turnover or a bad shot without fouling.    

“We’ve got to be able to move our feet, pressure the ball but not foul,” Lavin said. I think that was one aspect that really came to life and went down the stretch against Wisconsin who sealed the win by making free throws, 12 straight to finish the game.”

As the Johnnies continue to focus their attention on defense, they will have to contain Wagner’s Latiff Rivers. The senior is third among active players in the Northeast Conference in three point shooting. With the Johnnies allowing Wisconsin to shoot for 48 percent from three point range, Lavin looks to get his team to develop better positioning along the line to contain that threat.

“We’ve got to provide help but stay close enough – as we say be attached – to the three point marksmen that are spotted up along the three point line. So that comes down to vision and positioning.”

The Johnnies look to counter, not by answering from the perimeter, but by penetrating the paint. Even with outside threats like senior Marc-Antoine Bourgault and sophomore Max Hooper, the Red Storm associate themselves being a paint team and dominating the boards. St. John’s outscored Wisconsin 44-24 in the paint in the season opener.

“We work on our threes, but that’s not our strength as a team,” sophomore Sir’Dominic Pointer said. “We are a paint team, we get to the paint.”

St. John’s also looks to cover senior Kevin Ortiz. In his final season for the Seahawks (1-1), Ortiz averaged 16 points in the first two games of the season, including a 20 point performance in Wagner’s 62-74 loss to Penn State.

Although their opponent is not in a power conference, the Johnnies are not sleeping on Wagner. The Seahawks were stand atop the preseason coaches’ poll for the NEC for the first time since 1992, receiving seven first place votes out of 10.

St. John’s has won its past nine consecutive home openers and holds an 11-2 edge over Wagner in their head-to-head matchup, with the Johnnies winning the last game 69-61 in 2010.