Following their overtime loss to Villanova, the St. John’s Red Storm (9-5) would head up to Ohio to face the #14 Cincinnati Bearcats (13-2).
The Bearcats would be the second ranked team the Storm has played this season. Their first matchup came against the then #16 Baylor, a game St. John’s lost 97-78.
Play was physical early on as Chris Obekpa was temporarily knocked out of the game after taking an elbow to the face. The strength of Cincinnati also kept St. John’s out of the paint, shutting the Storm out in the games first 4 minutes.
JaKarr Sampson finally got St. John’s on the board after hitting two free throws. Cashmere Wright would score the first 8 points of the game for Cincinnati, and with 14 to go they led 8-4.
Despite shooting just 10% from the field in the games first 8 minutes, St. John’s trailed only 10-4. The defense forced four turnovers, and allowed the Storm to keep things close.
The overall defensive effort continued to be the star for St. John’s in the first half, holding Cincinnati to just 13 points in the games first 13 minutes. This allowed the Storm to hang in the game, and with 7 to go they trailed 13-12.
Following two three pointers from Cincy the Storm managed a run of their own, highlighted by a strong bounce pass from D’Angelo Harrison to Obekpa, who finished the play with a dunk. The Storm took the 20-19 lead following their 8-0 run.
With 2 minutes to go in the half, the Bearcats finally ended the St. John’s run and retook the lead. They would give it right back however, and after the games first 20, the Storm led 24-21.
St. John’s continued their uptempo play following the halftime break, taking advantage of the numerous Cincinnati turnovers. At the 15 minute mark of the second half, the Storm led 36-24, with Cincy hitting just 2 0f their prior 20 shots.
Following the 10-0 run for the Storm, the Bearcats finally managed to get a few buckets while trimming the Storm lead to 36-29. St. John’s would come right back however, and with 12 to go the Storm retained an 11 point lead.
Two straight turnovers by St. John’s would once again dwindle that double digit lead, forcing coach Steve Lavin to call a timeout with 10 minutes left in the game. Both teams came out of the time out on the attack, but the Storm was able to extend their lead to 48-38 with Harrison and Sampson each scoring four points.
Neither team found the bottom of the basket for the next two minutes until Cincinnati finally hit a bucket. Following that score, the Bearcats drained two three pointers to cut the Storm lead to 48-46 with 3 to go.
Cincy had a chance to tie the game, but TItus Rubles only hit one of two free throw attempts. D’Angelo Harrison would come down the other way and hit a deep three with the shot clock running down. Rubles came right back to hit a three of his own, and on their next possession the Bearcats finally took back the lead.
Harrison would give the Storm the lead once again soon after however, and with 20 seconds left St. John’s had a 53-52 advantage. They would hold on to win it by that score, upsetting a ranked opponent for the first time this season.
D’Angelo Harrison had 13 of his 15 points in the second half of the game. JaKarr Sampson was also a big contributor, with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. Cashmere Wright led the way for Cincinnati as he recorded a 23 points, 10 rebound double double.
St. John’s will look to extend their Big East win streak to two in a row as they host Rutgers January 9 at 7 P.M. in what will be a three game home-stand.