The third annual Ugly Christmas Sweater night comes to you from Carnesecca Arena this Friday when the Red Storm take on the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are known for their memorable NCAA Tournament game last year as they almost became the first #16 seed to upset a #1 seed. The Bulldogs lead Syracuse at halftime and part of the second half before Syracuse made a comeback and won 72-65.
St. John’s has played one game against UNC Asheville in the schools history and that was back in the 1998 Preseason NIT where they blew out the Bulldogs, 105-50. That year’s Red Storm team went on to the Elite Eight and lost to The Ohio State University, 77-74.
Date: Friday, December 21st, 2012
Location: Carnesecca Arena- Queens, New York
Time: 7:30 PM EST
TV: ESPN3 (Tony Luftman, Brandon Tierney)
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Tim O’Toole)
UNC Asheville (4-7, 0-0)
Head Coach: Eddie Biedenbach
UNC Asheville returns most of their Tournament team from last year including four of their starters who were on last years team that almost upset Syracuse. After losing six in a row, the Bulldogs have won three of their last four games including a road victory at Northeastern on Dec. 18. Jeremy Atkinson is the top scorer and rebounder for the Bulldogs as he scores 17.7 points per game while grabbing 7.5 rebounds.
As a team, Asheville shoots it at a 45% clip and averages seven steals a game. Keith Hornsby is the top scoring guard on the team, the guard averages 13.6 points and is a 47% shooter from downtown. This Bulldogs team will look to end the curse of New York as the University has never won in the state of New York at 0-5.
Projected Starting Lineup:
F Jeremy Atkinson
F Jon Nwannunu
F Will Weeks
G Keith Hornsby
G Trent Meyer
St. John’s (8-3, 0-0)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin
The story of the week for St. John’s is the debut of Jamal Branch. The point guard transfer from Texas A&M has been with the team for a year as he had to sit out due to NCAA rules and has been practicing with the team. Branch averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 assists in 19 minutes a game. Branch backed up senior guard Dash Harris but left because he didn’t get to play for the coach he committed to. Branch will try to mesh the offense together better as he is viewed as a more traditional point guard as compared to D’Angelo Harrison & Phil Greene.
JaKarr Sampson was awarded his second straight and third overall Big East Rookie of the Week honors. D’Angelo Harrison was named to the Big East Honor Roll for the fourth time in five weeks. It has become pretty standard for the Red Storm standouts to be honored by the Big East. This is St. John’s last game of 2012 and last non-conference game. The Red Storm will return to the court on Jan. 2 as they head to Philadelphia to take on Villanova.
Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Sir’Dominic Pointer
C Chris Obekpa
G Phil Greene
G D’Angelo Harrison
Keys to Victory
▪ Welcome to my block party- Chirs Obekpa had another ridiculous 9 blocks against St. Francis last Saturday in Brooklyn and is second in the nation in blocks per game (5.3) and actually has more than 7′ center from Kansas Jeff Withey, leading 58-50. Withey has more per contest as Kansas has played one less game than the Johnnies.
▪ Come together, right now- The win against St. Francis was an all together effort. Harrison and Sampson had big scoring games, Obekpa had the edge on blocking shots and Sir’Dominic Pointer had 12 points, seven rebounds & five assists. An all together effort equaled a cool 17 point win.
▪ +/- - In their first 11 games the Johnnies are +4.0 in turnovers. They haven’t turned the ball over much and with the addition of Jamal Branch it should improve. Branch knows for his good point guard play has been noted as a good defender also. Our first glimpse of him will be interesting to see how he can help this club.
▪ This is the end- Is December 21, 2012 going to be the end of the world? Probably not, but it is the end of the Johnnies’ non-conference schedule. The Johnnies will look to the new year and try to do better and improve their 6-12 mark from the year prior. Picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll it will be important for the Storm to win games they are supposed to and try to squeak out some upsets if they want to play in the postseason.
Final Prediction: St. John’s Wins, 66-60