The St. John’s Red Storm will enter the KFC Yum! Center to face the #12 ranked Louisville Cardinals on Valentine’s Day looking to break some hearts. The Red Storm are coming off a road loss to Syracuse where they played tough but were out classed down the stretch by a better team. The loss was not back breaking for the Red Storm’s chance at the NCAA Tournament though as they will have a chance at a statement win at Louisville.
Louisville is coming off an epic five overtime loss at Notre Dame on Saturday and will be looking to rebound but the Cardinals have been mortal lately. They have lost four of their last seven after opening the season 16-1.
Louisville leads the season series against the Johnnies 10-6 and has won three of the past four meetings. Last season the Cardinals came to the Garden and put a beating on the Johnnies winning 73-58 in a game that was never close.
Date: Wednesday, February 14th, 2013
Location: KFC Yum! Center- Louisville, KY
Time: 9:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN (Mike Patrick, Jimmy Dykes)
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Brandon Tierney)
Louisville Cardinals (19-5, 7-4)
Head Coach: Rick Pitino
The Louisville Cardinals and head coach Rick Pitino are perfectionists and losing four of their last seven games is pretty unusual. Especially when the Cardinals boast some of the best players in the country including two of the best guards in the nation.
Queens native Russ Smith who spent three years at Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood under legendary coach Jack Curran. The junior guard is averaging 18.3 points per game and 2.6 assists on 40% shooting from the field. Smith is quick and gets in the lanes and makes things hard for the defense, especially with backcourt mate Peyton Siva always around.
Siva is averaging 10.3 points and six assists a game on 43% shooting from the field. The dangerous backcourt can bust a defense.
Another Cardinal to look out for is Chane Behanan. The 6’6 small forward is averaging 11.2 points per contest and dropped 30 points and 15 rebounds on 13-20 shooting in 56 minutes against Notre Dame in their five overtime classic. The sophomore forward will be next to stud 6’11 center Gorgui Dieng who is averaging 9.9 rebounds and will be a problem for the Johnnies on the boards.
Projected Starting Lineup:
C Gorgul Dieng
F Chane Behanan
G Russ Smith
G Peyton Siva
G Wayne Blackshear
St. John’s (15-9, 7-5)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin
JaKarr Sampson has racked up his league leading sixth Big East Rookie of the Week award and it certainly was well deserved. Sampson averaged 19.5 points and six rebounds while shooting 58.6% from the field in a win against Connecticut and a loss to Syracuse. Sampson lead the way in the loss at Syracuse with 21 points and six rebounds on 10-14 shooting. Sampson kept the Johnnies in it as long as he could with his spectacular play.
D’Angelo Harrison is still struggling and only racked up 13 points on 4-13 shooting from the field. The sophomore guard who started the season so hot has cooled down the past month or so. Harrison is not shooting at the same clip he had been but is still very important to this team in all that he does. Harrison and Marc-Antoine Bourgault, who had three points on 1-7 shooting, are the three point threats that will help break down a defense, especially with do it all sophomore point guard Jamal Branch still nursing a knee injury.
Branch who sprained his MCL against Georgetown on February 2nd is unlikely to play in his third consecutive game, although Branch is traveling with the team and is listed as day to day. Steve Lavin will not coach as he is still with his family following the passing of his father, Cap. Rico Hines will be on the sidelines for the Red Storm as acting head coach.
Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Sir’Dominic Pointer
G Marc-Antoine Bourgault
G Phil Greene
G D’Angelo Harrison
Keys to Victory
- Hit the glass- Louisville is a good rebounding team, they’ve got length and size and the Johnnies will need their best to hit the glass. The Cardinals average 14 offensive rebounds a game and our out rebounding their opponents by five per game. Chris Obekpa, Sampson and Sir’Dominic Pointer will have their hands full with another big team. They were able to pull even with a big Syracuse team splitting rebounds 30-30 but extra chances for the Orange sunk the Johnnies in the end.
- D’Angelo’s Slump: Part Deux- D’Angelo Harrison is still in a slump. The sophomore guard who is 17 points away from the 1,000 career point club and can hit that mark with a signature game against the Cardinals, although I’m sure Harrison would trade the points for a huge road victory.
- Oblockpa– Chris Obekpa hasn’t been blocking two many shots lately although he is still one of the top shot blockers in the country with 102 on the season. But if he’s blocking shots or not he is still an important big body that can change the way the guards drive in the paint or how many rebounds Dieng gets. Obekpa will be a big part of the game for St. John’s on Thursday night/
- Hit em while they’re down- The Cardinals have been slumping lately, if the Johnnies can get out to a hot start, hit their shots, defend and rebound it will be huge. The Cardinals are coming off of a disastrous loss where they blew an eight point lead in the final minute, then went on to lose in five overtimes. The Cardinals can be vulnerable and if the Johnnies want their big resume building win this could be the game to make it happen.
Final Prediction: Louisville Wins, 65-61