Lavin Prepares St. John’s for Garden Opener Against Rutgers

Steve Lavin
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s finished its biggest win of the season at #14 Cincinnati and will look to take that momentum and build on it at the Garden as they take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Red Storm who lost two disappointing games in a row to UNC Asheville and Villanova in overtime came out swinging against Cincinnati and were able to overcome adversity and pick up a huge Big East win.

This will kick off a three game home stand for the Red Storm as they play Rutgers Wednesday night. The last time Rutgers and St. John’s took the floor against each other at the Garden the Red Storm took a 65-63 win over the Knights in the 2011 Big East Tournament. That was the controversial game where Justin Brownlee went out of bounds and threw the ball up in the air with time still on the clock and the referees not calling it.

This year Rutgers and St. John’s both played and won in the MSG Holiday Festival. St. John’s defeated Fordham and Rutgers won a thrilling game over Iona.

Game Information
Date: Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
Location: Madison Square Garden- New York, New York
Time: 7:00 PM EST
TV: MSG
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Brandon Tierney)

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-3, 1-1)
Head Coach: Mike Rice

This Scarlet Knights team is coming off a good win against Pitt at home and look to build momentum after a solid non conference part of their schedule. For the Knights their top scorer this season has been Eli Carter, the guard is averaging 17.5 points per game and shooting it at 43% in 28.5 minutes. Carter has come off the bench in recent games and is a good change of pace from other guards Jerome Seagears and Myles Mack.

Mack is averaging 13.2 points per game and Seagears is averaging 3.9 points in 22.5 minutes. Wally Judge is the big man to watch for the Knights as he is their highest averaging rebounder at 6.6 a game. A deficiency for St. John’s has been rebounding before they took the battle of the boards with a good rebounding team in Cincinnati. It will be a huge area to cover for both teams.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F Austin Johnson
F Wally Judge
G Jerome Seagears
G Dane Miller
G Myles Mack

 

St. John’s (9-5, 1-1)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin

The Red Storm had a rocky first week to the Big East season. They lost their composure and an overtime game at Villanova where a win was in their grasp, wasting a career night from D’Angelo Harrison. But instead of going down without a fight against #14 Cincinnati, they were able to build a lead and keep it in crunch time. Harrison hit a huge three from almost half court and then hit the game winning jumper in the lane after not having such a great first half. Harrison is now averaging 21.6 points on 45% shooting in an astounding 35.1 minutes per game.

Harrison was on the Big East Honor Roll for the fifth time this season, the most by any player. JaKarr Sampson rebounded from his poor start to the Big East season with a 16 point, eight rebound effort against Cincinnati. While Amir Garrett continues his solid play in the post by going 3-4 from the field last game with eight points.

Jamal Branch is questionable with his eye injury that occurred in practice last Friday and there is still no NCAA decision about Orlando Sanchez’s eligibility.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Amir Garrett
C Chris Obekpa
G Phil Greene
G D’Angelo Harrison

Keys to Victory
▪    The D Factor- D’Angelo Harrison is the Red Storms MVP so far this season. He leads the Big East in scoring and he has been unbelievably clutch in situations where a normal sophomore wouldn’t be. Harrison has grown a lot in his one and a half years at St. John’s and looks to be the best player on the court at all times. The Storm will need just that against a good Rutgers squad.
▪    Obekpa Rebounds- Chris Obekpa is know for his blocks, and he should be. But he also needs to crash the glass for the Red Storm to be successful. Last game Obekpa had nine rebounds and lead the team. If Obekpa can lear to block shots and rebound he will be one of the most dangerous threats in the game.
▪    Amir – Simply Amir. Amir Garrett has been a huge factor for the Storm in their first two Big East games. Against Villanova Garrett scored 15 points and nine rebounds off the bench and then scored eight against Cincinnati. Garrett has become and efficient low post option even playing under sized at 6’6 he is a 52% shooter from the field. And he spent his summer playing baseball with the Reds.
▪    Point Guard Play- Phil Greene and Jamal Branch are the teams two point guards. If Branch plays it will be interesting to see if Greene plays off the ball more and they allow Branch to be the set up man. Greene has shown huge potential this season shooting the ball and getting to the rim but some feel he will be even better off the ball. Branch has played in two games and missed one with an injury since he became eligible, he will be an important part of this team when he suits up.

Final Prediction: St. John’s Wins, 60-59