Red Storm Looks To Deal Valentine's Day Heartbreak To No. 12/12 Cards :: St. John's meets Louisville on Thursday at the KFC YUM! Center (ESPN, Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM, Watch ESPN).
Red Storm Looks To Deal Valentine's Day Heartbreak To No. 12/12 Cards
St. John's meets Louisville on Thursday at the KFC YUM! Center (ESPN, Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM, Watch ESPN).
Feb. 13, 2013
QUEENS, N.Y. -
With victories in six of their last eight games, head coach Steve Lavin and his St. John's basketball team (15-9, 7-5 BIG EAST) -- featuring four active scholarship freshmen, five sophomores and one junior -- head to No. 12/12 Louisville (19-5, 7-4 BIG EAST) for a Valentine's Day meeting at the KFC YUM! Center. The 9 p.m. "Rivalry Week" matchup -- the fifth-consecutive for the Red Storm on national television -- airs on ESPN with announcers Mike Patrick and Jimmy Dykes. The contest can be heard live on the official radio network of St. John's Basketball, Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM, and on RedStormSports.com (subscription), with announcers John Minko and Brandon Tierney.
Lavin is back in 2012-13 after posting a 2-2 record last season while making a full recovery from prostate cancer surgery (Oct. 6, 2011). Dr. Peter Scardino of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center placed Lavin on a modified schedule in 2011-12 that kept him off the sideline, enabling Lavin to better focus on a full recuperation, while simultaneously securing the No. 8 recruiting class in the nation per HoopScoop.com. St. John's 2012 rookie class is comprised of eight standout student-athletes representing five countries. The highly-acclaimed group followed a 2011 class ranked No. 3 nationally by ESPN. Lavin's record at St. John's is 38-22.
St. John's is 2-3 on the season against ranked opponents, topping then-No. 20/20 Notre Dame at The Garden (67-63, Jan. 15) and winning at then-No. 14/15 Cincinnati (53-52, Jan. 5). The Red Storm has slayed nine Top 25 giants during the Lavin Era, eight coming with the third-year head coach on the sidelines. According to RPIRankings.com (Feb. 12), St. John's owns a current RPI of 55, with the 14th-toughest schedule in the nation (11-3 home; 4-4 road; 0-2 neutral). That includes a 3-3 road mark in the BIG EAST, with wins at Rutgers (72-60, Jan. 23), at DePaul (71-62, Jan. 19) and at Cincinnati.
Six-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week JaKarr Sampson scored a game-high 21 points, but Syracuse fired at a 53.7 clip and drained 10 3s to defeat the Red Storm, 77-58, at the Carrier Dome on Sunday. Sampson was 10-of-14 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds, D'Angelo Harrison added 13 points and Phil Greene IV had 10, but St. John's went just 5-of-22 (.227) from long range and committed an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. The Red Storm fired at a 48.4 percent clip (15-of-31) clip in the second half, but was limited to 33.3 percent (8-of-24) in the first half. Lavin missed the game due to the overnight death of his 82-year-old father, Cap, leaving the reins to assistant coach Rico Hines.
Louisville owns a 10-4 advantage in the series, having taken two of the last three matchups.
A Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, Harrison is tied for second in the league in scoring with 18.3 points per game (T-38th nationally), and his 78.5 percent success rate at the free throw line ranks 14th among all BIG EAST players. The six-time BIG EAST Honor Roll member's 2.1 made 3-pointers per game rate fifth in the conference, he holds the team lead and is tied for 13th in the league with 1.5 steals per game and his 35.0 minutes per game rank eighth in the BIG EAST. He is currently firing at a rate of 40.7 percent from the field and owns a 31.7 mark from beyond the arc. He has reached the 20-point plateau in 13 of St. John's first 24 games and scored a career-high 36 at Villanova (Jan. 2).
After averaging 7.6 ppg as a freshman, guard Phil Greene IV is currently scoring at an 8.9 ppg clip and showing his ability as a dynamic playmaker despite a hip injury. His 2.8 assists per game are in the top 20 among all BIG EAST players and his 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio is ranked 10th. In the last five games he is averaging 11.0 ppg, 2.8 assists and is shooting 1.000 (11-of-11) from the line.
Sophomore swingman Amir Garrett spent the offseason in professional baseball as a left-handed pitcher within the Cincinnati Reds minor league system. He is averaging 6.0 ppg and 4.6 rebounds with an impressive .471 field goal percentage in 21.1 minutes per game in a reserve role.
Motor City sophomore Sir'Dominic Pointer is averaging 7.7 ppg on a league-second 62.0 percent shooting mark, with 6.0 rpg (T-14th) and 1.5 spg (T-14th) in league play. St. John's toughest on-ball defender is heating up, averaging 8.5 ppg on 59.6 percent shooting from the field (28-of-47) with 6.2 rebounds (18-of-62 offensive), 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals across the last 10 games.
Six-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week JaKarr Sampson leads BIG EAST freshmen in both scoring (14.8 ppg, 13th overall) and rebounding (6.6 rpg, 11th overall). His rejections (1.2, 11th) and defensive rebounds per game (4.6, eighth) are listed among the BIG EAST Conference leaders. Two of Sampson's preseason dunks were selected as SportsCenter Top 10 plays.
A game-changing shotblocker, 6-9 Chris Obekpa -- the rookie with the 7-5 wingspan who is second in the nation in rejections with 102 -- led STJ with a school-record 11 blocked shots in the victory vs. Fordham (Dec. 8). He tied the St. John's single-season record (76) in only 15 games, and eclipsed it in 16, now averaging 4.3 bpg. In conference play, he averages a league-leading 3.2 swats and is 13th with 6.1 rebounds.
Texas A&M transfer point guard Jamal Branch has played in 10 games, drawing seven starts with five wins. In BIG EAST play he is averaging 9.0 ppg, hitting at a 50.0 percent clip from the field (33-of-66, 11th), and adding 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals (T-10th). He scored a career-best 18 at DePaul (Jan. 19).
French sharpshooter Marc-Antoine Bourgault has caught fire in the last three games, which includes two starts. He is averaging 8.7 ppg during that stretch, which includes a 37.5 percent goal mark (6-of-16) beyond the arc.
Athletic wing Felix Balamou continues to be a key playmaker. In the last 22 games he has averaged 2.2 ppg, connecting on 20-of-45 field goals (.444) while contributing 1.1 rpg in 8.9 minutes.
The final member of Lavin's eight-man recruiting class, freshman Christian Jones was the surprise of the preseason. In exhibition play he averaged 12.5 ppg on 66.7 percent shooting with 8.5 rebounds, and has scored in 13-of-18 appearances on the year.
JUCO transfer Orlando Sanchez will not participate Thursday as he awaits an eligibility ruling from the NCAA. Harvard transfer Max Hooper is eligible for game participation in the 2013-14 season.
Senior big man God'sgift Achiuwa, who averaged 9.5 ppg and 5.6 rpg in his JUCO transfer year in 2011-12, is in the midst of a redshirt season. Achiuwa, a member of St. John's University's prestigious President's Society, could complete Master's degree requirements by the end of 2013-14.
St. John's returns to Queens to take on USF on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. on SNY in the first of two-straight home games.
Harrison And The 1,000-Point Plateau
Red Storm sophomore guard D'Angelo Harrison should become the 48th St. John's player in history to reach the 1,000-point milestone. With 983 career points, Harrison is only 17 away from the plateau, which he should reach in the next two contests.
Harrison will have a special place in St. John's basketball history when he reaches the milestone, as he'll be one of only a handful of two-year players to post that number.
Harrison, who has played in 56 career games, will likely reach 1,000 career points in game No. 57 or 58. That would assure Harrison of going into the record book as one of the fastest 12 players to hit that mark, which includes all-time scoring leader Chris Mullin (58).
If Harrison reaches 1,000 in the next game, he assures himself a top 10 finish.
The St. John's Class of 2011 featured the last three 1,000-point scorers. D.J. Kennedy, who finished his career 12th all-time with 1,504 career points, hit the plateau as a junior. Paris Horne (30th; 1,199) and Justin Burrell (47th; 1,007) both reached the milestone as four-year seniors.
No. 12/12 Louisville comes into Thursday's matchup at 19-5 and tied for fifth in the BIG EAST at 7-4. The Cardinals started off as one of the hottest teams in the country, going 16-1 and winning their first four conference games before hitting a three-game skid in league play. After rebounding with three straight wins, UofL fell on Saturday Night, 104-101 to Notre Dame in a 5OT thriller that set the record for the longest regular-season game in BIG EAST history. The Cardinals have an RPI of 7 after playing the seventh-toughest schedule in the nation.
Statistically, the Cardinals boast one of the stingiest defense in the league, allowing just 61.5 points per contest and outscoring opponents by a BIG EAST-best 9.1 points per game. Opponents are shooting just .396 against UofL, and are averaging 16.8 turnovers per game, helped by the Cardinals averaging 10 steals per contest.
Individually, the Cardinals boast one of the top backcourts in the nation, with Wooden Award candidate Russ Smith and Cousy Award finalist Peyton Siva. Smith is Louisville's top scorer and second in the BIG EAST at 18.3 points per game, while big man Gorgui Dieng is the team top rebounder, grabbing 9.9 boards per contest to compliment his 9.4 ppg scoring average. Dieng is also one of the top interior defenders in the conference, averaging 2.6 swats per contest.
Head Coach Rick Pitino is in his 12th season at the helm in Louisville, and his 28th overall. Pitino has the distinction of being the first coach in NCAA history to take three different schools to the Final Four, including Louisville in 2005 and 2012.
This will be the 15th meeting between the Red Storm and the Cardinals in a series that dates back to 1978, and the eighth meeting as BIG EAST foes. Louisville has a 10-4 advantage in the series, having taken two of the last three matchups. In the last meeting on January 3, 2012, D'Angelo Harrison had a game-high 24 points while Moe Harkless added 12, but it wasn't enough to overcome 28.1 percent shooting as then-No.11/10 Louisville won, 73-58, at Madison Square Garden.