St. John’s Tips-Off SEC/Big East Challenge Against South Carolina

The St. John’s Red Storm will return to the Carnesecca Arena floor as part of the 2012 SEC/Big East Challenge. The Red Storm will tip off trying to win three in a row coming off wins against Florida Gulf Coast and Holy Cross. Last year, St. John’s fell to eventual national champion Kentucky in Lexington as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge and beat Georgia at Madison Square Garden in the 2009 version of the event.

The exciting and athletic Johnnies will face a test from the South Carolina Gamecocks who they have a short history with. The last time these two teams played was in 1975 finals of the ECAC Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden, St. John’s won 71-59.

Game Information

Date: Thursday, November 28, 2012
Location: Carnesecca Arena- Queens, New York
Time: 7:30 PM EST
TV: ESPNU (Mike Crispino, Kara Lawson)
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko, Tim O’Toole)

South Carolina Gamecocks (5-1, 0-0)
Head Coach: Frank Martin

It has been an up and down non-conference schedule so far for the South Carolina Gamecocks. They are coming off a trip to Mexico where they won the Hoops for Hope Classic over Missouri State and Arkansas Little Rock. Before that the Gamecocks lost at home to Elon University from the Southern Conference, 65-53. St. John’s will be the first real test for coach Frank Martin in his first year as Gamecocks head coach.

The Gamecocks will be missing football player Bruce Ellington who is their normal starting point guard, he cannot play until football season is over and averaged 10 points as a sophomore last season. But a couple of seniors have been leading the way for Martin and the Gamecocks so far, LaShay Page is averaging 15.5 points per game and is an above average 60% from behind the three point stripe. Forward Lakeem Jackson has saved his best season for his last as he is averaging 11 points and eight boards this season in 35 minutes a game. The Gamecocks look to come to Queens and steal a game from the Red Storm in their first road contest of the season. South Carolina will score a lot of points and get to the line but have a problem with turnovers.

Projected Starting Lineup:

F Michael Carrera
F Lakeem Jackson
F RJ Slawson
G LaShay Page
G Eric Smith

St. John’s (4-2, 0-0)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin

After coming off two slow starts in their last games, St. John’s will look to start fast against major competition. Freshman guard Felix Balamou earned his first start of the season in the last game against Florida Gulf Coast as Steve Lavin went with a three guard set to start the game. Balamou, who was going to redshirt at the beginning of the season, has shown why it was a good idea not to as he is shooting at a 73% clip from the field as he has averaged 10 minutes a game so far. Balamou had taken a shot to the head against FGCU and was cut open. This fired up the team and his road roommate, D’Angelo Harrison especially, and lead to the come from behind win.

Freshman forward JaKarr Sampson was named the Big East Rookie of the Week as he averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds against Holy Cross and FGCU. Sampson has shown a sweet jump shot these last few games to go along with his athletic dunks. Sophomore guard D’Angleo Harrison was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll; Harrison averaged 18.5 points and 4.5 rebounds while hitting 44% of his tries from three.

This game will be a good barometer for where St. John’s is, especially a week and a half after their games in Charleston with Murray State and Baylor.

Projected Starting Lineup:

F JaKarr Sampson
F Christian Jones
G Phil Greene
G D’Angelo Harrison
G Felix Balamou


Keys to Victory

  • #Gamechanger- St. John’s will most likely see a new all-time blocks leader at the end of the season thanks to freshman forward Chris Obekpa. Obekpa is averaging 4.5 blocks per game and has 27 in the first six games. The Gamecocks have skilled forwards and it will be important for Obekpa to block and change shots at the rim.
  • Start Fast- The past two games, against low-major competition, the Red Storm have started slow and eventually worked their way back into the game. They might not be so lucky if they spot the Gamecocks a 10+ point lead. The Johnnies need to make a statement and start fast out of the gate.
  • Don’t Foul- The Gamecocks are great at getting to the line. They have made an SEC best 103 free throws in their first six games of the season while taking 133. They shoot it at a 77% clip as a team.
  • Defense Dom- Sir’Dominic Pointer had a career-best game against FGCU as he totaled 15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks & 2 steals. Pointer is known as the best  one on one defender on the Red Storm and it is always fun to watch him turn a steal into a highlight reel dunk. But if Pointer can put up offensive numbers to go with his defense, we will be seeing a whole new side to this already potentially dangerous Red Storm team.

Final Prediction: St. John’s Wins, 75-70

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