Last night, the Red Storm took on the Maryville Saints at Carnesecca Arena for an exhibition game. While they may have won 71-57, it was a slow start against a Division II opponent for a team that heads into the season with plenty of promise. Here are some takeaways from last night win.
1. LJ is here to stay
Energy, effort and enthusiasm. The Johnnies didn’t have much of it last night but the same can’t be said for the former JUCO All-American scorer, LJ Figueroa.
It was only an exhibition but his hustle didn’t go unnoticed. The 6-foot-6 wing-man led the team with 15 points and was extremely active in the offense.
Figueroa was only in the starting five because guard Mustapha Heron was out with a concussion, but he showed everyone why he should be an integral part of the rotation.
2. Horrific from behind the arc
The Red Storm shot 24 three’s last night and made a measly six of them. Marvin Clark and Bryan Trimble had two each, while Mikey Dixon and LJ Figueroa made one a piece.
The good news is that the Red Storm will likely never shoot this poor again. Many missed shots were on open looks. Let’s hope they’re just getting it out of their system before Tuesday.
3. Ponds was passive
Again, this was only an exhibition. The team could’ve been trying out a few things. However, star guard Shamorie Ponds was very passive. There were clearly a few times when Ponds could’ve taken the ball to the hoop but opted to kick it out.
He did finish with 6 assists but never got in a shooting rhythm. He was only 6-16 from the field. When the team is struggling offensively like they did last night, it’s pivotal Ponds goes into attack mode.
4. Offense was rusty
As we said, there was plenty of missed shots. But there was times when the offense was a bit chaotic and stagnant. The Johnnies didn’t have as many easy looks as I thought they would and started settling.
There was open ones like I mentioned before, but considering the opponent, I’m sure we all thought it would be more of a cake-walk. Sedee Keita showed he can be a scoring threat down low but he also had four turnovers.
5. Coach wants more energy
Chris Mullin is usually pretty positive when it comes to talking about his group but he didn’t seem pleased last night.
Again, Mullin is not one to be critical of his team to the press. This tells me he was not a happy camper despite the victory.
6. Press and Pressure Defense
Mullin said the team was going to press more and they showcased it against Maryville. There were a few times that the Saints looked very overwhelmed and had to rush to put a shot up.
The one hallmark of the Red Storm has been their athleticism. This allows them to play tight defense and pressure the ball carrier. With more depth and rest for key players, there’s going to be little time for other teams to rest on offense when facing the Johnnies.