St. John’s Halftime Shift Powers 91-74 Win Against Central Connecticut State

The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team was disconnected and ineffective in the game’s first half. A change in defensive strategy turned the tides.

Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team made a key halftime adjustment to top Central Connecticut State University, 91-74, enroute to a third-straight win Tuesday, Nov. 15. A switch from man to zone defense stifled the Blue Devils’ offense, allowing the Johnnies to lead by as many as 24 points late in the second half.

The victory was a true team effort, with ten St. John’s players scoring points and four players finishing in double figures. “We shared the ball,” said junior guard Posh Alexander in a postgame media conference. “We’re making the right reads [and] we have some great guys that can hit threes on this team.” 

It began with a ferocious start from senior center Joel Soriano, who for better or worse, was doing it all for the Red Storm. In under three minutes, the big man surrendered a foul, was charged with a goaltending violation and scored six points.

But the impactful effort by Soriano was countered by a near perfect shooting performance by the Blue Devils, who finished the first half converting on field goal attempts at a 54-percent clip. It’s a testament to the inconsistency of the Red Storm defense, as Central Connecticut State made just 38.8 percent of their field-goal attempts in their first two losses to start the season.

The two teams traded scoring runs and droughts, emphasizing the fickle nature of the team’s style of play. At its best, the high-speed strategy disrupts opposing offenses and facilitates quick scoring in transition. At its worst, the uptempo offense and defense can become disjointed, leading to unforced errors and missed assignments. 

The tides started to turn for the Red Storm a few minutes into the second half after the team’s defensive strategy changed. The team contained the Blue Devils’ scorers and took care of the ball, contributing to a 16-2 scoring run midway through the final period.

“We were more connected,” Alexander said of his team’s defensive performance in the second half marked by a shift to zone defense. “We just put everything together, got stops and played that way.”

Alexander said he prefers playing man-to-man defense, but the team trusted head coach Mike Anderson and it led to more cohesive play. Both Alexander and Anderson felt the team was playing slower than CCSU in the first half, leading to the adjustment.

“Our defense is geared towards not letting people just get comfortable,” Anderson said. 

Despite the subpar performance in the first half, the Johnnies finished with a shooting percentage over 50 percent for the third straight game, converting at a 55.2-percent rate. Their three-point shooting improved too — six of the team’s eight three-pointers were made in the second half. 

AJ Storr takes a shot against CCSU.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

Junior forward David Jones found his groove late in the game after a slow start, finishing with 15 points and ten rebounds. “I was trying to help the team another way [by] getting rebounds,” Jones said of his early play. “But in the second half, the shots just started falling and I started getting in the game.”

Freshman guard AJ Storr secured the victory with a team-high 16 points in 17 minutes, and 13 of those points came in the second half. A monstrous slam by Storr with just over seven minutes in regulation sent Carnesecca Arena into a frenzy, and St. John’s never looked back.

Through three regular-season games, it’s clear that the Men’s Basketball team can appear to be an offensive force and defensive obstructor. At others, the team is disconnected and chaotic. But at the final buzzer in each game, the Red Storm have been victorious. 

“The game is 40 minutes,” Anderson said in a postgame media conference. “We want those last ten minutes.”

In a game of runs, the Johnnies had the last word.