St. John’s will be looking for its first Big East win tonight against Creighton, who has struggled on the road in conference play.
The St. John’s Red Storm (10-10, 0-8 Big East) just haven’t found a way to close out games in Big East play. After their 93-89 double-overtime loss to Georgetown last Saturday, they have now lost six of their last eight games by seven points or less.
Tonight, they will look for that first win in Big East play when they host the Creighton Blue Jays (15-5, 5-3) at Carnesecca Arena. You can watch that game on Fox Sports 1. The BlueJays won the first meeting in Omaha, 78-71, back on Jan. 6. However, this Creighton team is different compared to the one the Johnnies faced two weeks ago.
The big difference is the injury to sophomore forward Martin Krampelj, as he is out for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL he suffered last week. Krampelj was shooting 67 percent from the floor for the year and is still the team’s leading rebounder (8.1 per game).
Now, coach Greg McDermott takes his team on the road, and they have not fared well away from CenturyLink Center. Creighton is 1-3 in four Big East games this season, their only win a 90-66 blowout of Georgetown on Jan. 6. They’ve also lost two of their last three games, including an 85-71 loss to Providence last Saturday.
In this matchup, the guard play will be the main thing to watch as both teams have great point guards in Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Foster. Foster, who had 25 points against the Red Storm in the first matchup, has scored 20 or more points in three of his last four games.
As for Ponds, look for him to be more aggressive in this game compared to the first meeting when he was coming back from an injury. Heading into tonight, he is finding more success with his three-pointers (five in his last two games) and has dropped 30 or more points in two of his last three outings.
Creighton’s depth is something the Red Storm will have to deal with. Even with Krampelj out, Creighton’s bench can put up numbers. On Jan. 6, they outscored the Red Storm’s bench 17-0 thanks to 13 points from Ronnie Harrell Jr. Right now, Harrell Jr. is the team’s best rebounder (seven per game) and he has five or more boards in three straight games.
Creighton only had 27 rebounds in the loss to Providence Saturday, so this could be one of those games where St. John’s keeps it close in terms of the rebounding margin. It will be up to Tariq Owens and Marvin Clark Jr. to take advantage of a Blue Jays lineup that is most likely going to go with four guards.
One of those guards, Khyri Thomas, can change the game instantly like he did in the first matchup when he had 17 points against St. John’s (12 in the second half). However, he hasn’t scored more than 15 points in a game since that contest.
On the St. John’s side, they will look to be aggressive on defense and turn those steals into fastbreak points. Their backcourt of Ponds, Justin Simon, and Bashir Ahmed had 11 steals against Creighton the first time around. Look for Simon to be a key as he has had 15 steals in his last five games.
For St. John’s, they need to find a way to have better execution and to hold leads in the second half. With Creighton banged up and not playing their best basketball lately, the Red Storm need to find a way to keep it close and make the plays down the stretch to secure a win they desperately need.