NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Head coach Chris Mullin of the St. John's Red Storm watches his team in the first half against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the Big East Basketball Tournament on March 9, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Today, the St. John’s Red Storm will look to go 2-1 in the AdvoCare Invitational when they take on the Central Florida Knights.

Despite a tough loss on Friday against Missouri, St. John’s (5-1) still has a chance to have a winning weekend. This afternoon, they will play in the third-place game of the AdvoCare Invitational against the Central Florida Golden Knights (noon ET, ESPNU).

UCF is off to a 4-1 start under head coach Johnny Dawkins, but it will be interesting to see how they respond today after their lopsided 83-45 loss to West Virginia on Friday night. They did beat Nebraska 68-59 in their first game, who the Red Storm beat earlier this month by a score of 79-56.

When you talk about the Golden Knights, the first player that will come to mind is center Tacko Fall. At 7-foot-6, Fall is one of those players that is tough to attack the basket against. He has averaged over two blocks per game in each of his first two seasons (two blocks per game this year). Plus, he is 14-for-20 from the floor.

For this game, it will be critical for the St. John’s guards to come up with turnovers before the ball reaches the frontcourt. If that doesn’t happen, the Red Storm could find themselves in early foul trouble. True, Fall is not a good foul shooter (47 percent), but they don’t have the depth to afford fouls in the frontcourt.


One thing St. John’s might try to do is follow the same blueprint that West Virginia did on Friday. In that loss, UCF turned it over 27 times, including six from forward A.J. Davis and guard Chance McSpadden. In its first six games, the Red Storm have forced about 10.5 turnovers per game.

While the Golden Knights don’t have that one elite scorer, they have four main players that have averaged double figures, so it is more of a balanced attack.

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Davis leads the way for UCF as he has averaged a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds per game). They only shoot 24 percent from beyond the arc, but St. John’s has had issues defending the perimeter in this tournament.

On the St. John’s side, Shamorie Ponds has had a great weekend in Orlando. The sophomore guard has scored 57 points in the first two games to go with 13 assists. In addition to those great numbers, he has made all 17 of his free throws, which will help if he tries to attack the basket and gets to the foul line.

If there’s one player to watch on the St. John’s side besides Ponds, it is Marcus LoVett. LoVett has a way of lighting up the scoreboard when his shot is in rhythm. While he has scored 32 points this weekend, that has come on 28 shots. He did not have a steal in Friday’s loss against Missouri for the first time this season.

All in all, I think the Red Storm will find a way to win this game because of their defensive pressure. If they can force UCF’s guards to make mistakes, it will lead to transition baskets and that’s the kind of style St. John’s wants to play. A 2-1 weekend would go a long way in setting up the rest of the non-conference slate in December.


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