After eight seasons in the Big East as an assistant coach, it was safe to say that Kyle Neptune was pretty familiar with the St. John’s Red Storm. Following his Rams’ Sunday night loss to the Red Storm, Coach Neptune described the familiarity he had developed with the team while at Nova.
“[It felt] very familiar. You knew what it was coming in,” Neptune said of St. John’s game plan. “It’s hard to mimic. We played Manhattan earlier and they play a similar style. It’s nothing tricky, but you can’t practice for it. We don’t’ play like that, so it’s hard to play against when you don’t see it.”
According to Neptune, as well as apparent to anyone watching this game, this St. John’s toughness is centered around their veteran duo of Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander. Now in their second season as a tandem, the two guards led the charge against Fordham with 16 and 23 points respectively. Defensively, both players excelled at disrupting Fordham’s game plan, with both Champagnie and Alexander recording 3 steals apiece. Overall, St. John’s would force 18 turnovers on the Rams. Shutting down Champagnie was a key strategy for the Rams tonight, and while they clearly fell short, Coach Neptune felt that his team did a decent job at limiting his opportunities.
“ I thought we actually did a decent job on Julian tonight,” Neptune said. “We were really worried about him coming in. To his credit, he really let the game come to him. He didn’t take any crazy shots.”
In terms of how the Rams themselves performed on offense, there were plenty of ups and downs.
On the positive side, Fordham was able to make some quick adjustments on the fly when former Ram Joel Soriano locked down the paint. Chuba Ohams played an almost point forward role at some points, dishing the ball from corner to corner to find an open Darius Quisenberry or Antonio Daye Jr. Despite shooting under 40% from the field, Fordham once again excelled at getting an open shot. Ohams finished the day with another 20 point performance to go along with 6 rebounds. Even when down by double digits, Fordham made sure that they did everything they could to stay alive.
“I’m always proud of our guys. I thought they played well,” Coach Neptune said. “They came out and drilled shots early, we were resilient, didn’t back down. We played them tough until the eight minute mark when they started going on their run.”
With all that being said, there were a few key holes in Fordham’s play that St. John’s was able to quickly capitalize on. From the jump, Fordham had a lot of trouble breaking the Johnnies’ full court press, leading to plenty of possessions where that had no time to get off a quality shot. Fordham had little answer to their opponents strong play inside, and were outscored 52-24 in the paint. Late-game foul trouble forced players like Antrell Charlton to spend some crucial late game possessions on the bench. While Coach Neptune described these problems as obvious “chips in the armor,” he was hopeful that his team will take these more as learning experiences heading into conference play.
“We’re going to play a lot of teams like this in our league, so hopefully we can take what we learned into the next games of our season.”
Fordham is now 2-2 against fellow NYC-based teams this season. They will look to finish the non-conference play 3-2 in that category when they take on LIU at home this Thursday.