St. John’s basketball needs physicality of Josh Roberts going forward

St. John's basketball forward Josh Roberts (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
St. John's basketball forward Josh Roberts (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

St. John’s basketball needs the physicality of its junior forward Josh Roberts.

Entering Tuesday’s matchup against Butler, St. John’s basketball junior forward Josh Roberts had played a total of 15 minutes in Big East play, registering two games in which he did not play.

Isaih Moore was suspended for disciplinary reasons against the Bulldogs and head coach Mike Anderson turned to the 6-foot-9, 220 pound forward from Troy, Alabama and he did not disappoint.

“He was a difference-maker in this game,” Anderson said following St. John’s (7-6, 2-5 Big East) 69-57 victory over Butler (3-7, 2-5 Big East).

“My player of the game is Josh [Roberts]. 100-percent,” sophomore forward Julian Champagnie said, “I feel like him on the defensive end of the court was phenomenal.”

Roberts ended the game with eight points and three rebounds in 23 minutes while only committing two fouls, something that had been an issue for him last season.

But it was the physical presence and experience in the paint that helped the St. John’s defense put forth its best effort of the season, holding Butler to under 60 points.

Junior college transfer Isaih Moore and graduate transfer Arnaldo Toro were thrown into the fire of Mike Anderson’s defensive system with very little practice time in the offseason due to the pandemic.

Josh Roberts has been in the system for over a year.

Moore sometimes is too perimeter oriented on the offensive end of the floor which blocks driving lanes for guards Posh Alexander and Rasheem Dunn while creating unnecessary double-teams on Champagnie.

Despite standing at 6-foot-10, Isaih Moore is feeling the rigors and physicality of Big East play at just 205 pounds, which weakens the interior defense of the Red Storm.

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Arnaldo Toro is no where near as aggressive or physical as many thought he would be on both ends of the floor for the Johnnies, averaging just 1.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

“If you watched the team, you saw more guys who were connected defensively on the floor and I thought it allowed us to do some more things,” the St. John’s head coach said of Roberts’ play on Tuesday night.

Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili posted 32 points and nine rebounds against the Johnnies.

Georgetown center Qudus Wahab went for 17 points and ten rebounds in the Hoyas’ victory over the Red Storm and still reached 12 points and six rebounds in a loss to St. John’s despite constant foul trouble.

Creighton’s forward tandem of Christian Bishop, Damien Jefferson, and Ryan Kalkbrenner combined for 36 points and 25 rebounds in the Bluejays’s win over St. John’s in Queens and 30 points and 15 rebounds in its victory in Omaha.

Jason Carter and Zach Freemantle combined for 16 points and 26 rebounds in Xavier’s comeback win over the Johnnies.

The common denominator in those six games? Josh Roberts did not play for more than five minutes.

St. John’s basketball needs continued progress out of Josh Roberts

Mike Anderson might have found his best rotation against Butler; Posh Alexander, Rasheem Dunn, Greg Willams Jr., Julian Champagnie and Josh Roberts.

The lineup provides enough spacing, shooting, defense, and aggression that is needed to compete, and win, at the Big East level while also adding key reserves to enter the game with very minimal drop-off offensively and defensively.

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“I think it is his time now. Josh [Roberts] has been patient. I think he has done a good job in practice of continuing to work and staying positive. It is his opportunity,” Anderson explained.

It remains to be seen whether or not Josh Roberts remains in the starting lineup when Isaih Moore returns, but it’s clear that Alabama native needs more time on the court going forward.

St. John’s returns to action on Saturday, January 16 against the Marquette Golden Eagles in Carnesecca Arena with tip-off slated for 2:00pm EST (Fox Sports 1).

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