New York City - In the opener of the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden, Baylor defeated St. John's in a game that was a lot closer than what the final score hints. More details following the jump.
What we learned:
1. St. John's had a plan. Coach Kim Barnes Arico decided it was 'pick your poison' - she instructed the Red Storm to exert defensive pressure on point guard Odyssey Sims and double Britney Griner in the low post. Griner was fronted and played behind simultaneously each trip down the floor. It left open the likes of Jordan Madden and Brooklyn Pope. Barnes Arico knew they would do damage but hoped it would not be too severe.
In the end, Griner was held to eight shots, but still was a major factor with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 6 blocks. Sims shot 2 of 10 and had eight points but Pope had a 19 point 8 board effort while Madden added 11 points.
"We did a good job doubling Griner," Barnes Arico said. "But when Amber Thompson got her fourth foul (early in the second half) we put a guard in to front Griner and our defender just couldn't adjust as well as Thompson."
2. Baylor was given a game. Early in the second half the visiting Bears were down 36-30. St. John's had the lead and momentum before Baylor picked it up on both ends of the floor.
"Our defense got more patient," Griner said. By having a 'patient' defense Griner explained, "that we helped each other out. We knew when to attack on defense and when to cover and stay back."
At halftime, down 32-30, Baylor's Kim Mulkey remained very calm: "I just told everyone to show more energy and excitement out there. When you are number one you are going to get the best shot of everyone you face and St. John's is a very good team."
3. The game was well played. If you look at it from the tempo-free turnover ratio point of view. Baylor had nine turnovers in 65 possessions. St. John's had only eight in 63 possessions. The TO rates:
St. John's 13%
A twenty percent mark is the threshold. Below 20%, better than average offense. A 20% or above, your offense is not operating at peak efficiency.
4. The Red Storm are getting the injury 'hex'. The past few years, Barnes Arico noted, St. John's was very fortunate to avoid any injuries of consequence. Already they have lost Da'Shena Stevens, a pre-season All Big East selection whom they hope to have back in the lineup soon.
In the second half Sunday, Nadirah McKenith went down with a knee injury and never got back in the game. A junior guard, McKenith is a double digit scorer for the Red Storm. Her status is still uncertain.
5. Pope, a transfer from Rutgers, led Baylor with 19 points. Eugeneia McPherson of St. John's paced all scorers with 23 points. Griner had 6 of Baylor's seven shots. Doesn't count the many she altered. St. John's blocked 5 shots with Shenneika Smith leading with three. The game, in fact, had twice as many rejections (12) as three pointers made (6). Baylor was 1 of 12 (8%) while St. John's shot 5 of 9 (56%). Red Storm found three point range more inviting than two as they were 20 of 56 (36%) inside the arc.