Monday, November 13, 2023

Michigan Ruins Red Storm's Garden Party


Nimari Burnett connecting on a three-pointer at the 6:09 mark of the first half that put Michigan up 32-31. Photo by Jason Schott.

The St. John's Red Storm had their much-anticipated season debut as Madison Square Garden on Monday night, and Head Coach Rick Pitino's group was given, as he termed it, "a good lesson" by the Michigan Wolverines, who rolled to an 89-73 win.

"I am so proud of Madison Square Garden and the job they do for us," Pitino said afterwards. "It was awesome, unfortunately we didn't match their effort of putting it together. I'm so thankful for the fans that came out, they were great, the students were fabulous, we just couldn't match The Garden, we couldn't match the students and we couldn't match the fans, and more important, we couldn't match Michigan."

Michigan dominated early, paced by point guard Nimari Burnett's 21 points in the first half, as he shot a perfect 8-for-8 overall and 4-4 from the three-point line, with two rebounds and an assist. The Wolverines closed the first half on a 19-7 run to take a 10-point lead into the half, 48-38.

That was just the start, as Michigan pulled away in the second half, and led by as many as 26, at 74-48, when Terrance Williams II buried a three-pointer at the 9:56 mark.

Michigan guard Dug McDaniel put up 16 points in the second half on his way to a 26-point effort, which led the Wolverines, as he shot 8-for-16 from the field, 2-6 on three-pointers, a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line, seven assists, and six rebounds.

Burnett was actually held scoreless in the second half, so he finished with 21 points, three rebounds, and two assists. Williams II had 12 points (5-12 FG, 2-6 three-pointers), three rebounds, and an assist. Will Tschetter had 10 points (3-5 FG, 1-3 threes), including eight in the second half, with one rebound and one assist.

Michigan as a team shot an impressive 51.6 percent in the game, or 32-62, and 42.3 percent (11-26) from behind the arc. 

St. John's shot just 36.0 percent (27-75) from the field for the game, including 31.6 percent (12-38) in the second half. From behind the arc, they made just one-third of their attempts, as they were 9-27, or 33.3 percent.

Joel Soriano led the way for the Red Storm with 15 points (6-8 FG), with nine rebounds and an assist. Jordan Dingle and Daniss Jankins had 10 points apiece, as Dingle shot 4-10 overall and 2-4 on three-pointers and Jenkins was 4-12 on field goals and 2-5 on threes.

In his postgame remarks, Pitino said of St. John's performance on both sides of the ball, "I was just really, really taken aback. Our defense was not good, but I'm going to give all the credit to Michigan. Our offense shocked the shit out of me. Shocked the hell out of me that we didn't share the ball or move the basketball. Joel (Soriano) didn't post up one time in the arc, and that was disturbing, and those are things that we have to do. The offense really shocked the hell out of me."

Rick Pitino in front of the St. John's bench during the first half. Photo by Jason Schott.

St. John's does not have to wait long before they hit the court again Thursday afternoon in the Charleston Classic against North Texas. 

On what Pitino envisions concentrating on before that matchup, "We do it every game. You go over the good, the bad, and the teaching points, so tomorrow they will be humiliated with what they did offensively. Yes, they'll be humiliated defensively, but they just got beat by a much better basketball team.

"Where they will be humiliated is with their selfish offense. They're not like that as people, they're not like that as players. They'll be embarrassed by that, and that'll be a good lesson for them because it happens to pro teams, it happens to college teams, it happens all the time. If you don't use each other screening and moving, getting it into the low post - there was one time that our post people caught the ball below the first marker in the arc, and our guards did not do a good job of screening and moving, and they're going to see it tomorrow, and they'll learn.

"They'll be loaded for bear against North Texas because they'll be very upset with themselves, we won't even have to raise our voices. I always tell the players the film never lies; it never lies. You know, when you watch a great movie, the same thing's going to happen in that movie, and they're going to watch it tomorrow and they're going to be very embarrassed at their play."

Pitino said of the job Michigan did, "We knew Michigan was a great team. It's very difficult to judge how good teams are this time of the year because of the portal and all the transfers. It's a guessing game but when we saw they beat Marquette, 106-101, in 12-minute quarters and then watched them in their two games, we knew that they were one of the best shooting teams in the country. What we didn't expect was to get dominated by their point guard (Burnett) the way he dominated us tonight. That's a credit to him. He's a terrific player and just dominated us. The difference between their offense and our offense is they used each other to get great shots and we went one-on-one way too much. Because of that, their percentage was really high (51.6%) and our percentage was really low (36%). Even though we have a bunch of veterans, they played as individuals and Michigan deserved it because of that. When you play teams like that early in the season, you learn what you need to work on. We are going to Charleston to play in a very difficult tournament and if we play like we did against Stony Brook (whom they beat 90-74 on November 7 at The Lou) with sharing the basketball, and moving and cutting, we will do well. If we played like we did tonight, we will struggle. It was a good lesson, but they deserve all the credit. They were brilliant at the way they ran their offense."

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