St. John’s v. UConn. What Happened?

Basketball score and margin graph for St. Johns vs Connecticut

On Saturday, February 3, 2024, the St. John’s MBB team had #1 UConn right where they wanted: up a point with 13 minutes left in the game, on their home away from home court, Madison Square Garden. The Garden crowd was rocking like it was 1985, when the Big East ruled supreme.

But what happened? As coaches, we all have been in the position to wonder what went wrong after it all felt so right.

Using the Hoopsalytics scoring graphs, we can isolate on the last 13 minutes of the game to find out what happened. Here are the results:

First, the good news. 27 minutes into the game, St. John’s led 46-45. SJU was shooting 54.3% on Effective Field Goal (EFG% is weighted 1.5x for 3pt shots). UConn was shooting 53.9% EFG. SJU had an excellent team-wide turnover % (percentage of turnovers vs. shots attempted) of 11.6%. UConn was 17.1%. And lastly, SJU had a Free Throw Factor (FTF% – how often a team or player gets to the free throw line relative to the number of shots taken) of .40 while UConn was a low .11.

While the Johnnies have performed at a much, much higher level than the last few seasons, UConn is the defending National Champion, and in the clutch, that pedigree and experience came to the forefront.

In the last 13 minutes of the game, UConn outscored SJU 32-18. What happened? Free Throw Factor. UConn got to the line more times than they took shots from the floor, shooting an incredible 18 FT’s down the stretch – and making 16. SJU shot 7 and made 6. Similar FT% – 85.7% for SJU to 88.9% for UConn, but the FTF of .39 for SJU vs. 1.50! for UConn was ultimately the difference. UConn 2H free throws attempts (18) were more than their combined 2 and 3pt. shot attempts (12).

Digging deeper into the numbers is where coaches – and players, and fans – can find illumination as to What Happened?

Hoopsalytics is the flashlight.

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