St. John’s basketball put on defensive clinic in second half vs. Syracuse

St. John's basketball guard Andre Curbelo (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball guard Andre Curbelo (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

The St. John’s basketball team put on a defensive clinic against Syracuse. 

The offensive firepower from Syracuse was a concern. The St. John’s basketball program got an up-close look on Monday night as the Orange’s leading scorer, Joe Girard, went for 31 points against Richmond, but it was ready for the challenge.

Head coach Mike Anderson had the perfect plan to take Girard out of his game. Pressure him.

The senior was not physically — or mentally — tough enough to deal with the Red Storm press for 94 feet and it showed.

Montez Mathis guarded him for most of regulation as Dylan Addae-Wusu took over the responsibility in overtime as Girard was just 1-of-10 from the floor, 0-of-4 from 3-point range, and missed the front end of a critical 1-and-1 late in overtime.

However, it was the other halftime adjustments from St. John’s that made its defensive efforts so impressive in the 76-69 overtime victory.

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Syracuse freshman guard Judah Mintz was carving up the Red Storm with 16 points in the first half while forward Benny Williams was wide open in the midrange and added nine points to the Orange’s halftime advantage.

Anderson countered with mixing up his defense much more often in the second half with zone, man-to-man, and pressure.

The 6-foot-6 David Jones got the assignment on Williams in the second half while Posh Alexander was haunting Mintz.

“I’m not married to one system. I’m married to winning,” Anderson said following the victory.

Williams and Mintz were both 1-for-4 from the floor after halftime as they combined for only six points.

“Fatigue was a factor…This team has potential. They’re gritty, they’re gritty. I love grittiness. I love it.”

Halftime adjustments continue to work for St. John’s basketball

The halftime adjustment forced 11 turnovers from Syracuse which led to the St. John’s 10-point second half comeback.

“They’re not scared of big moments,” the St. John’s head coach continued.

Anderson has been nearly perfect with his halftime adjustments so far this season dating back to the second game of the season when the Red Storm forced the ball inside to Joel Soriano to pull away from Lafayette.

“We’ll get better,” Anderson said on his team’s first half struggles which has now found themselves down by double-digits in each of its last three games.

“Obviously you are concerned about it. We have to get better at it…we have to be if we want to be the team that we want to be.”

St. John’s (6-0) will return to the court on Saturday afternoon (2:00p.m., FS2) against Niagara (2-2) in Queens.