Healthy Hall heads to MSG to take on St. John’s
A healthy men’s basketball team will look to continue its momentum after beating the University of South Florida as it travels to play St. John’s University at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Injuries have plagued the Pirates this season, and as a result had to travel to then No. 25 Marquette on Jan. 16 with seven healthy scholarship players available.
The Hall began the season with 12 scholarship players eligible to suit up, but lost several players during non-conference play, including five frontcourt players. As a team the Pirates have missed a total of 40 games because of injury.
Head coach Kevin Willard said having players return has been a relief, but knows the challenge ahead of him.
“I’m looking forward to getting this team healthy,” Willard said. “We’ve got to steal a road game here or there and continue to play well at home. If we can do that, we have a chance. If not, we’re just playing for pride.”
On Nov. 21 junior forward Patrik Auda broke his right foot in the second half against Maine after scoring eight points and grabbed six rebounds. As of Wednesday he’s missed 14 of the 19 games this season.
Classmate Aaron Geramipoor also suffered a foot injury, as he was diagnosed with stress fracture in his left foot. It caused him to miss nine games.
Freshman center Kevin Johnson missed three total games with a knee injury. He sat out against Sony Brook and DePaul after needing surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Johnson returned against then No. 20 Notre Dame, but had to sit out the game against Marquette because of swelling in his knee.
Junior swingman Brian Oliver made his return on Wednesday against the University of South Florida after missing the last five games with a sprained right ankle. Oliver scored nine points on 3-3 on 3-pointers.
“Physically I actually feel great,” Oliver said. “After this game, I feel like I’m 90 percent.”
Sophomore forward Brandon Mobley also returned against USF after missing the Marquette game with a shoulder injury he suffered in the team’s loss to Providence. Mobley scored 14 points in 21 minutes and also grabbed four rebounds.
As for the game against St. John’s, the Pirates may have trouble dealing with the length of the Red Storm. Freshman center Chris Obekpa leads the nation in blocks with 4.8 per game, and the Red Storm as a team leads the country in blocks with 8.39 per game.
The Hall also may have difficulty defending St. John’s sophomore D’Angelo Harrison, who leads the team in scoring with 19.6 points per game. That mark puts him at second in the conference behind Providence point guard Bryce Cotton.
The Red Storm tend to struggle offensively though, as they are 11th in the Big East in scoring, as they average 68.1 points per game. They are also 11th in the conference in field goal percentage, hitting 44 percent of their shots.
Mobley said he is excited to get back, but more excited to take on St. John’s.
“Its another road test,” Mobley said. “But Sunday is going to be good we get to go to the Garden.”
T.J. Brennan can be reached at email@example.com.