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Before we say anything about the game, can we just rave about the little girl
who sang the national anthem? It's hard to imagine being 10 and having the
nerve to do that. It's almost impossible to imagine doing it as well as
she did it. That's a very hard song to sing, and everyone since Jose
Feliciano seems to feel the need to personalize it. But she sang it
straight and nailed it. Bravo, bravo, bravo!
Okay, on to the game. Let's just get this out now: we can't stand the
way St. John's plays. The defensive effort, in the early part of the
game, was admirable, and that's where they can win some games this year.
Good thing, because their offense is painful to watch: boring, ugly, and stupid.
Their offense is predicated almost entirely on going to the hole. At
one point, when they were significantly down, one of St. John's kids was wide
open - completely unguarded - and passed up a three. What did he do?
Drove, of course. And missed.
Since they only hit 8-27 on jumpers, layups might have been a wise
move. However, the Johnnies only hit 14-26 on layups. Threes? Forget
And it's not like it was a lot better under Mike Jarvis, although it was more
St. John's, in a way, really reflects why the U.S. has trouble competing
internationally. Their style, really, is the New York style, and it
reflects the city game, which is built on machismo. It's fun to watch in
person, up close, because it gets into personal duels. But in a five on
five game it is depressing and almost certain to fail.
Against Duke, St. John's held the tempo for a while and managed to get inside
enough to take the lead briefly. But at the end of the first half, Duke
began to ratchet up the pressure and St. John's was essentially done. When
frustration set in, mistakes multiplied, and Duke took over and that was that.
In the second half, the Johnnies were dispirited and their defense fell off
and the offense, which was ineffective to begin with, pretty much dried up until
the end, when Duke cleared the bench.
After the game, Coach K said something very interesting on the radio, which
shows why he is usually a step or two ahead of most opponents. He said
that Lamont Hamilton made himself a non-factor by picking up two first half
fouls, and then his coach helped out by sitting him down. Krzyzewski said
that he was always grateful when an opposing coach did that, but that it made no
sense to him. He usually leaves players in with two fouls so that they
know how to play if they're in trouble. And then he said, in so many
words, that the regulars season is just a way to get ready for March, and if his
guys don't know what to do, they'll get in foul trouble in the tournament and
St. John's used their quickness to harass J.J. Redick, and it worked to an
extent, as he only scored 18.
But unlike in some games this year, Duke had excellent scoring balance.
Redick hit for 18, Shelden Williams had 11, Sean Dockery and Josh
McRoberts had 12, Greg Paulus had seven and Lee Melchionni had
six. Marty Pocius chipped in four.
Williams was not that far off of a triple double, with 10 boards and seven
As much as we disliked St. John's offense, we did admire their defense, at
least in the first half. We started paying attention to them after Norm
Roberts replaced Mike Jarvis
One of the things that Roberts was supposed to do at St. John's was to repair
relations with the city's high school coaches. Jarvis was said to be
indifferent to city players, which, after watching St. John's, we can to an
We have great respect for the basketball tradition of New York.
Great players came from New York, guys like Jabbar, Billy Cunningham, Dr. J,
Nate Archibald, and more. But how often do you hear of them now?
Is it not possible that Jarvis looked at the way the game was played in New
York and concluded that this team, this style, was where he would end up and
decided he better improve his geographical base pronto?
Whatever happened, St. John's is a one-dimensional mess. Teams who zone
them will probably kill them.