Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs the St. John’s Red Storm

In Game Previews, Previews by Brian HoraceLeave a Comment

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February 2, 12:00PM
Cameron Indoor Stadium
ESPN

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The Blue Devils take a break from league play to welcome Chris Mullin's St. John's Red Storm to Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Red Storm (16-5, 4-5 BIG EAST) will look to top Duke (18-2, 7-1 ACC) for the second straight season. Last season at MSG guard Shamorie Ponds dropped 33 on the Blue Devils who had no answer for the then sophomore. Ponds went 12 of 23 in the game and lead the Red Storm to an 81-77 victory. The Red Storm began the season on a 12 game winning streak but currently are 5-5 in their last ten games.

The Red Storm are led in scoring my Shamorie Ponds who is averaging 20.9 points per game. Ponds also averages a team high 5.7 assists and 2.8 steals per contest. Ponds shoots at a 49.5% rate and 38.8% from 3. Ponds is an elite level guard who's scored over 30 points twice this season and is also great distributor dishing out 6 or more assists 9 times this season. Guard Mustapha Heron shoots the 3 at a team high 43% to lead the team. L.J. Figueroa leads the team in rebounding at 6.8 per game. The Red Storm start 3 juniors, a sophomore and a senior. Each starter for St. John's averages in double figures and they boast 6 players who shoot 35% or better from beyond the arc. Starting guard Justin Simon was limited to seven minutes in Wednesday’s win at Creighton because of migraine headaches. His status will be a gametime decision.

The Blue Devils are in the midst of a 4 game winning streak that includes 2 road victories. Duke currently sits at 18-2 overall, 7-1 in the ACC. DUke's 2 losses came in Maui to Gonzaga and at home to Syracuse where they played without starting forward Cam Reddish and lost starting point guard Tre Jones in the first 6 minutes with a shoulder separation.

The Blue Devils are led in scoring by R.J. Barrett who is averaging 23.6 points, 7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Fellow freshman Zion Williamson is averaging 22 points per game and is Duke's leading rebounder at 9 per game. Tre Jones leads the Blue Devils in assists at 5.6 per game to go long with his 8 points.

It will take an elite defensive performance for the Blue Devils to contain Ponds but he is by no means the Red Storm's only weapon. If Duke can limit either his scoring or his skills as a distributor they should be in fairly good shape. The Red Storm are not a good offensive rebounding team so this could be an area that the Blue Devils can exploit. If they can rebound the basketball better on the defensive end the Blue Devils can take advantage of their abilities in the open court. Duke will also have a decided size advantage at most positions - their versatility being able to guard big or small works in the Blue Devils favor.

JUNIOR FORWARD JACK WHITE

On the history of the Duke and St. John’s rivalry:

“We have a lot of the guys from last year still on the team and we feel like we owe them one. We know the last time we lost a non-conference home game in Cameron was against St. John’s, so it is a game that we are really hungry for and we really want to do well in and win.”

On what St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds does so well and how to stop him:

“He plays with a lot of confidence and a lot of freedom. He can go both ways and shoot but I think we need to bring the game to him and be the aggressor and we can’t be on our back foot and let him attack us. I think we need to take our defense to him especially with Tre who defends the ball as good as anyone else in the country. We are more than confident in his ability to start us off and whoever ends up on him to do their job.”

On Tre Jones’ toughness:

“You can’t ask much more out of him. He is a teammate first of all and even better man. He is one of my best friends on the team and has come in seamlessly. He knows how to run a team and he has a great relationship with Coach with a lot of trust between them and that obviously helps as the lead point guard. He really caters to the needs of the team and knows everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and what spot each guy has to be in and plays as good of defense as you could ask for from a point guard.”

On his relationship with co-captain Javin DeLaurier and talking basketball off the court:

“For sure, I think it would be weird if we didn’t. I think for me and Jav especially, going through the same stuff for two and a half years, we have been on this journey together. We are best friends and obviously with one guy is struggling or both of us are struggling we are going to try and help each other out regardless if it’s just me or Javin or any other guy on the team. I don’t think anyone would hesitate to try and help another guy out, it’s what being a good teammate is.”

FRESHMAN GUARD TRE JONES

On settling back in after his injury:

“Personally, sometime throughout that Georgia Tech game. Early on, I was just trying to get the feel of everything again after missing about a week or so. But about halfway through the Georgia Tech game I finally found it and I felt like we found it as a team as well.”

On playing St. John’s back with four of the five starters not present last year:

“Absolutely, we are a part of the team now and we all were committed last year when they did take the loss to St. John’s. We were cheering for Duke last year and so anybody they lose to we obviously want to get them back.”

His responsibilities against Shamorie Ponds:

“Just trying to force him to take tough shots. He is a really good scorer and a volume shooter so forcing him into tough shots and hoping he is not making them.”

On his relationship with Coach K and why it is so important on and off the court:

“When I was coming into Duke, Coach told me about the relationship we were going to have and how important that is for a team. For him to have a relationship with the point guard especially because it is like an extension of him on the court. For me, I just want to keep that relationship strong because I am a leader for us on the court and I have to get everyone in their spots throughout the game when he is not able to, so being able to have that strong relationship is really important for us.”

On NBA teams tanking:

“We all just laugh about it and you can’t miss this stuff. It’s all over social media and the TV. All we can really do is laugh about it and none of that stuff really matters to us right now and it will all play itself out at the end of the day. It is crazy to think about that they are not even halfway through and are doing that stuff for college players, but it just shows how good these guys really are.”

The Series So Far:

Overall: 24th meeting; Duke leads, 16-7 In Durham: Duke leads, 6-1
In New York: Duke leads, 6-4
At neutral sites: Duke leads, 4-2 Current streak: St. John’s, W1
Coach K vs. St. John’s: 16-10 (16-4 at Duke)

Media Info:

TV: ESPN (Bob Wischusen/Dick Vitale/Allison Williams)
Internet: WatchESPN
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network (David Shumate/John Roth)
Sirius/XM: 84 / 84 (Duke broadcast)

DUKE 3PT SHOOTING PERCENTAGE
31.1%
St. John’s 3PT SHOOTING PERCENTAGE
38.5%
DUKE SHOOTING PERCENTAGE
48.5%
St. John’s SHOOTING PERCENTAGE
47.7%
DUKE FREE THROW PERCENTAGE
67.9%
St. John’s FREE THROW PERCENTAGE
71.5%
Duke PPG
87.2
St. John’s PPG
82.2

Duke Probable Starters

  • G Tre Jones, 6'2, 183lbs
  • F R.J. Barrett, 6'7, 202lbs
  • F Cam Reddish, 6'8, 218lbs
  • F Zion Williamson, 6'7, 285lbs
  • C Marques Bolden, 6'11, 250lbs

St. John’s Probable Starters

  • G Shamorie Ponds, 6'2, 175lbs
  • G L.J. Figueroa, 6'6, 195lbs
  • G Mustapha Heron, 6'5, 210lbs
  • G Justin Simon, 6'5, 205lbs
  • F Marvin Clark II, 6'7, 225lbs

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