QUEENS, N.Y. -
Head coach Steve Lavin's St. John's basketball team (7-6, 1-1 BIG EAST) returns to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday to take on the No. 4/10 Louisville Cardinals (12-2, 0-1 BIG EAST). The Red Storm's first BIG EAST matchup of the year at The World's Most Famous Arena tips at 7 p.m. as part of a college basketball doubleheader at The Garden, and will air nationally on ESPNU, with Adam Amin and Bill Raftery calling the action from courtside. The tilt can be heard live on the official radio flagship of St. John's Basketball, Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM, on Sirius Channel 92 and XM Channel 192, and on RedStormSports.com (subscription), with veteran play-by-play announcer John Minko and Tim O'Toole.
Following successful surgery to treat prostate cancer on Oct. 6, Lavin continues to follow a modified schedule with regard to his coaching duties. Lavin has coached in four games this season (2-2) including two games at Madison Square Garden against ranked competition as part of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer on Nov. 17 and 18. He continues to perform coast-to-coast and local recruiting, media and other head coaching responsibilities as he recuperates.
St. John's is 7-1 at home in 2011-12, and 397-263 (.602) all-time at The World's Most Famous Arena, which has served as a home court for St. John's basketball for more than 77 years. The Red Storm defeated Fordham, 56-50, in is lone true home contest at The Garden this season, in addition to its losses in the two neutral contests as part of the 2K Sports Classic.
St. John's had four players in double-figures and committed just seven turnovers, but was held to 36.2 percent (21-of-58) shooting and lost for the first time in four games as No. 9/9 Connecticut shot 60.4 percent (29-of-48) to win its seventh-straight contest on Saturday, Jan. 31, 83-69. D'Angelo Harrison had a team-high 17 points, while God'sgift Achiuwa and Moe Harkless chipped in with 16 apiece to pace St. John's. Sir'Dominic Pointer added a career-high 14 points and tied a career-high with eight rebounds for the Red Storm, which forced 15 turnovers and was outrebounded by just four (32-28) against a UConn squad that ranks third in the BIG EAST in rebounding margin.
Louisville leads the all-time series with the Red Storm, 9-4, including a 4-2 mark in BIG EAST conference games. The Johnnies won the last meeting at Madison Square Garden, 74-55, on Feb. 11, 2010, as St. John's commemorated the 25th Anniversary of its 1985 Final Four team. That win ended a four-game losing streak to the Cardinals. Louisville took the last meeting, 88-63, in the new KFC Yum! Center last Jan. 19, in Lavin's first season at STJ.
Rated as high as the nation's No. 38 prospect overall and the No. 10 small forward by recruiting services, Queens'-own Moe Harkless is a complete basketball player and skilled local talent. The 6-8, 208-pound swingman spent his 2010-11 senior season at South Kent School (Conn.). An athletic, rangy shooter with great length on defense, he was the 2009-10 Daily News Queens High School Player of the Year and was a member of the Daily News' and NY Post's all-metro teams in 2008-09 and 2009-10. The freshman's team-best scoring average of 15.7 points per game ranks 14th among all BIG EAST players, his team-leading 8.3 rebounds per game is tied for fifth, his 46.2 field goal percentage is 11th and his 1.6 blocked shots rates 10th in the league. Harkless is coming off of four double-doubles in his last six outings, and is averages 24.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in conference play to date.
Rookie guard D'Angelo Harrison, a 6-3, 202-pound athlete from Missouri City, Texas, known both for his deadly accuracy and ability to get to the rim, finished his prep tenure rated as high as the nation's No. 9 shooting guard and No. 40 overall prospect by recruiting services. The two-time all-state selection averaged 31.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.6 steals as a senior at Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, and is renowned for his explosive first step, long-range game and his ability to fill up the stat sheet. He is averaging 15.2 ppg, 16th among BIG EAST players and drills an average of 1.9 3-pointers per game (T-10th), while connecting on 81.8 percent of his free throws (sixth). He scored a career-high 25 points vs. Providence (Dec. 27) and is averaging 19.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg across the last four contests, firing at a 40.7 percent clip from the field and drilling 81.5 percent of his free throws.
Junior big man God'sgift Achiuwa, a 6-8, 236-pound bruising athlete with an 87-inch wingspan from Port Harcourt, River States, Nigeria via Erie Community College (N.Y.), is a 2011 first team NJCAA All-America and a two-time JUCO All-America selection overall. He ranked ninth in the NJCAA in scoring last season (22.3 ppg), 10th in rebounding (11.7 rpg) and 17th in blocks (2.2 bpg). He is third on the squad in scoring (12.3 ppg), his 7.1 rpg rank 10th in the BIG EAST, and his team-best 54.0 percent shooting from the floor is tied for third among all league players. He recently chipped in a career-best 22-point effort against UTPA (Dec. 21).
Freshman swingman Sir'Dominic Pointer, a 6-5, 196-pound native of Detroit, Mich., was rated as high as the No. 8 small forward in his class and the No. 24 prospect overall by recruiting services. He keyed Quality Education Academy to a 25-4 record as a senior in 2010-11. He averaged 10.5 ppg in St. John's exhibition games and tied for the team lead in steals. He is averaging 8.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg in the last six contests, connecting at a 44.7 percent rate from the field (21-of-47).
A smooth, deft ballhandler ranked as high as the No. 41 shooting guard in his recruiting class, 6-2, 180-pound Chicago native Phil Greene scored 24.5 points per game with 6.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.0 steals to lead IMG Academy. The combo guard has the ability to get into the lane and pull up, or dish and create for others. A hard-nosed defender, Greene adds length and speed to "Chicago toughness" which gives him the ability to guard perimeter players. He has averaged 8.0 ppg over the last six games, shooting 90.0 percent from the free throw line and dishing 18 assists with only 11 turnovers.
St. John's received an early Christmas present on Dec. 21 as rookie forward and Top 100 prospect Amir Garrett was declared eligible and joined the squad. Garrett scored two points with three assists and two steals vs. Providence (Dec. 27).
Local 5-11, 187-pound junior guard Malik Stith is the only returning varsity letterwinner on the 2011-12 Red Storm roster. He has seen time at the one and the two in his first three seasons and came within two points of his career high with 11 vs. UMBC (Nov. 13).
The Red Storm next has two-straight road conference contests. STJ hits the road to take on Cincinnati (Saturday, Jan. 7, 2 p.m., MSG) and Marquette (Wednesday, Jan. 11, 7 p.m., ESPNU).
Scouting The Cardinals
Lousiville comes into the game at 12-2, but on a two game losing streak after losing to then no. 12 Georgetown, 71-68, then dropping a top-five matchup to no. 3 Kentucky, 69-62.
The matchup with the Red Storm will be just the third road game for the Cardinals, and just the second outside the state of Kentucky.
Senior guard Kyle Kuric, sophomore guard Russ Smith and sophomore center Gorgui Dieng are all averaging in double figures for the Cardinals. Dieng also averages 10.0 rebounds per game, the third-highest mark in the BIG EAST, and is one of just three players averaging a double-double in the conference.
As a team, Louisville leads the BIG EAST with 40.5 rebounds per game, while the Cardinals are second in the conference with 14.5 offensive rebounds per contest.