Both San Francisco and St. John's have fallen a long ways from their glory days of decades past. Over recent years, both programs have attempted to regain some of their former prominence. Tonight's game showed which team has made the right moves and which has not.
Steve Lavin's Red Storm needed a few minutes to get going but, once they did, they made Rex Walters and his Dons look very bad.
A 6-6 tie with 16:35 left to play was broken by a JaKarr Sampson dunk. That dunk, less than four minutes into the game, was the turning point. The Johnnies realized they had the ability to dunk, and that San Francisco's bigs were completely incapable of stopping them. The lead would remain with St. John's for the remainder of the game.
The next St. John's field goal came on another JaKarr Sampson dunk. By the end of the half the Johnnies had a 43-31 lead thanks in part to a 4-1 advantage on dunks (to add insult to injury, all four Red Storm dunks were emphatic).
The second half picked up right where the first left off. Seven of the Dons' first eight possessions resulted in turnovers. The Red Storm took advantage, bursting out to a 54-34 lead with 16:11 to play. By the end of the game San Francisco had committed 21 turnovers.
With 12:24 left to play, San Francisco's best player, Cole Dickerson fouled out with just four points and two rebounds. Matt Glover would also end up fouling out.
From there, St. John's continued to dunk, force turnovers and draw fouls until the final horn. An 81-57 victory pushes the Red Storm to 7-3 on the season.
St. John's played well, but the real story was just how poorly San Francisco played.
The Dons were out-rebounded 35-24, out-blocked 9-2 and out dunked 6-1. They turned the ball over 24 times, committed 21 fouls and gave up 14 offensive rebounds. Lay-ups were missed. The baseline was run coming out of a timeout. Almost nothing went well for the Dons tonight.
I say "almost" because they did shoot 48.8% from the field. However, St. John's shot 49.1% and had nine more attempts than the Dons.
Since the early retirement of senior point guard Cody Doolin back in November, the Dons have been teetering on the brink of collapse. The Dons have managed a .500 record since his departure, though one of those wins came against non-Division I Sonoma State and another against one of the nation's worst teams in Nicholls State (#336 out of 351 in Ken Pom).
It seems the Dons picked a nationally televised (in prime-time) game to finally descend into free fall.
Granted, they still have a winning record and there is a lot of season ahead of us. That said, it's supposed to be in the 60s tomorrow in San Francisco. I have to wonder if some of that heat is coming from Rex Walters' seat.