At some point, size, speed and quickness matter in a basketball game.
They certainly did in St. John’s 64-53 victory over the College of Charleston on Thursday night in the opening game for both teams in the Charleston Classic at TD Arena.
The Cougars (1-1) will take on Auburn, which lost to Murray State 79-59, today at 7:30 p.m. in the second round of the tournament. The Red Storm (2-0) faces Murray State today at 5:30 p.m.
St. John’s sophomore guard D’Angelo Harris played all but one minute, scoring 21 points, while Amir Garrett added 11 points and Phil Greene chipped in 10.
The bigger, faster and quicker Red Storm used all three of their primary assets to great effect against the Cougars, who struggled early to score.
“We talked a lot to the team about their speed and length and I think we were a little surprised by it early in the game,” said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. “At some point those things — size, speed and quickness — are going to matter and take their toll. St. John’s had that tonight. Their size and length were pretty impressive.”
The Red Storm used a 3-2 zone defense to force the Cougars to shoot from outside. The Cougars connected on five of 15 shots from the behind the 3-point line, but looked tentative at times in their half-court offense.
“They played zone against us most of the night and we knew it was coming, but we just didn’t think they’d do it from the beginning,” Wojcik said. “I take it as a compliment because they didn’t want to guard our stuff defensively man-to-man. We got the ball in the middle quite a bit, got the ball into the short corner a good bit and we had open 3-point shots. We were probably a little tentative against their zone, but like I said I take that as a compliment.”
What the Red Storm did the best was show patience in their half-court offense, working the shot clock down to the final seconds before getting to the basket.
“I don’t know how many shots they hit late in the shot clock, but it was a few,” Wojcik said. “They try to control the clock and play a lot of one-on-one basketball. They had a lot of shots go in at the end of the shot clock and I can’t fault our guys for their effort. They hold the ball until late in the shot clock and that gets frustrating.”
The Cougars got off to a slow start and trailed 36-26 at halftime. A Garrett layup with 13:19 left in regulation gave the Red Storm their biggest lead of the game, 48-28.
But the Cougars began to chip away at the lead and closed to the gap to 54-44 on Andrew Lawrence’s layup with 5:20 left in regulation.
But a Harrison layup just as the shot clock expired and a dunk from Sir’Dominic Pointer opened it back up to a 14-point advantage for the Red Storm.
“You think you’re going to make a run at it, but then they hold the ball for 30 seconds and hit a shot at the end of the buzzer,” Wojcik said. “It kind of takes the wind out of your sails a little bit.”
Despite the loss, Wojcik still believes the Cougars have the makings of a good team.
“The numbers are not all that bad,” Wojcik said. “It was an ugly game, but I took some positives out of it. We out-rebounded them, 38-35, and got some good play from our bench.
“Ultimately, we turned the ball over a little too much, we didn’t make enough shots and they get us in transition.”
The Cougars were led by Nori Johnson’s 11 points. Trent Wideman added 10 points and five rebounds.
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