QUEENS, N.Y. -
The St. John's men's basketball team (6-6, 0-1 BIG EAST) returns to the friendly confines of Carnesecca Arena for its BIG EAST home opener on Saturday when the Red Storm plays host to the Cincinnati Bearcats (6-7, 1-0 BIG EAST) on campus in Queens. The 6 p.m. matchup airs live nationally on ESPN Classic, with Bob Picozzi and Jim Spanarkel calling the action. The game will also air live on Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM, with announcers Mike Crispino and Tarik Turner. Live audio of the matchup is available on the Internet at WFAN.com, and live stats can be viewed on RedStormSports.com.
On Saturday, St. John's partners with Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatment and a cure for autism. Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that today affects approximately one in 150 individuals, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. Discounted tickets are available for Saturday's game, with portions of the proceeds benefiting Autism Speaks, and there will be lobby displays with information and Autism awareness pins, and an on-court presentation honoring a local awareness group from the Bronx. Fans can find out more information or make a donation by visiting the organization's website at www.autismspeaks.org.
Also, as part of St. John's Basketball Centennial season, all former team managers, athletic trainers and other support staff members have been invited to the game on Saturday. All of those individuals in attendance will be honored during an in-game ceremony.
St. John's enters the game following a hard-fought battle against upstate rival Syracuse in its BIG EAST opener. The Red Storm received a 21-point, 12-rebound effort from freshman forward Justin Burrell, and outrebounded the Orange 42-36, but fell 76-70 in the hotly-contested matchup. Anthony Mason Jr. was limited to 25 minutes with early foul trouble, but contributed 10 points, while Larry Wright stroked three 3-pointers to chip in with nine points. Eugene Lawrence netted seven points with five assists and no turnovers.
St. John's leads the all-time series, 4-2, following a 73-64 victory at Cincinnati last Feb. 4. The Bearcats enter the matchup after a 58-57 win at Louisville on New Year's Day.
Freshman Justin Burrell (12.0 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game) currently paces four St. John's players with double-figure season scoring averages and leads the Red Storm squad in rebounding as well. Fellow rookie D.J. Kennedy (9.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg) joins Burrell in forming the BIG EAST's best rookie tandem on the glass, and combined they account for 42.3 percent of the Red Storm's boards (182-of-430).
Burrell has five double-doubles in the last 10 games with 21 points and 12 rebounds in his BIG EAST debut at Syracuse (Jan. 2), 13 points and 10 boards against Niagara (Dec. 15), 19 points and 12 rebounds vs. LIU (Nov. 28), 15 points and 14 boards against FDU (Nov. 25) and a 15-point, 11-board effort against Sacred Heart (Nov. 20).
After playing only 20 minutes in the Red Storm's first six games of the 2007-08 season, Anthony Mason Jr. is back and in a familiar position. The Red Storm's returning scoring and rebounding leader has an 11.0 ppg scoring average, netting double-figures in each of the last five contests (13.8 ppg) while shooting 48.1 percent from the field (25-of-52) and 41.2 percent from long range (7-for-17). Mason Jr. missed five games early in 2007-08 with a high left ankle sprain, suffered first in the preseason and then re-injured on Nov. 28 vs. LIU. He averaged 11.9 points per game and 5.9 rebounds as a sophomore in 2006-07.
Eugene Lawrence, the Red Storm senior floor general, led all BIG EAST players in assists in 2006-07 at 5.6 per game. The fourth-year starter, who has experience at either of the guard positions, is now fourth on St. John's all-time career assists chart with 464, sixth on the all-time steals list with 172, and fifth on the all-time 3-pointers chart with 111. Lawrence needs just three steals to move into fifth on the all-time thefts chart and surpass Mark Jackson, who made 174 steals from 1983-87.
Lawrence has dished 54 assists with 24 turnovers in the first 12 games of 2007-08 to rank seventh among all BIG EAST players in assist-to-turnover ratio, and his 4.5 assist per game average ranks seventh as well. Lawrence also owns an 10.5 ppg scoring average on the year, good enough for third on the Red Storm squad, and his 2.3 steals per game ranks fourth among all league players.
Kennedy stepped into a starting role with Mason Jr.'s early-season ankle injury, has ranked among conference rebounding leaders all season long, and posted two double-doubles in the last seven games with 10 points and 11 boards vs. Niagara (Dec. 15) and 12 points with 11 rebounds at Hawaii (Dec. 21). A do-it-all contributor, Kennedy is first on the St. John's squad in 3-point percentage (.435, 10-of-23), second in rebounding, assists (25) and steals (16), and is third in minutes played (28.8 per game).
Redshirt freshman forward Rob Thomas capped a tremendous personal, academic and physical comeback, making his first-ever appearance in a Red Storm uniform against Ohio en route to game action in all three contests in the Rainbow Classic. He averaged 5.3 ppg and grabbed nine rebounds (3.0 per game, 5-of-9 offensive) in only 8.7 minutes per game while in Hawaii, and made brief appearances in the Holiday Festival and Syracuse games. Thomas, ruled a partial-partial qualifier by the NCAA last September, took the last exam of his NCAA-mandated "year in residence" on Dec. 12, and was therefore allowed to begin practice for the first time as a collegian. Thomas also had to overcome a severe knee injury suffered last March 26 and returned ahead of schedule.
Newcomer Paris Horne continues to give the Red Storm extremely productive minutes off the bench, averaging 6.3 ppg and 2.8 rebounds in 19.1 minutes.
St. John's continues BIG EAST play with a trip to UConn on Tuesday, Jan. 8 (7 p.m., SNY).
Saturday a Big Day For The BIG EAST On ESPN Classic
BIG EAST fans will get an early glimpse of just how prominently the conference's basketball product will be displayed on local, regional and national television networks this Saturday when eight games - six men's and two women's - will be on television. But that's not all.
In addition to those eight games, ESPN Classic will show five hours of archived men's basketball games on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. ET. That coverage will lead up to a BIG EAST men's basketball doubleheader featuring Cincinnati at St. John's (6 p.m. ET) and Providence at DePaul (8 p.m.).
1-3 p.m. - 1996 Georgetown at Providence at Providence Civic Center
In a physical contest that saw Georgetown coach John Thompson ejected, the Friars (16-9, 9-8 Big East) sprinted to an early lead, withstood the inevitable rally by the Hoyas (23-6, 12-5) and walked away with an 84-77 victory after hitting clutch free throws and playing their own brand of aggressive defense. Allen Iverson led Georgetown with 34 points.
3-5 p.m. - 2002 Connecticut vs. St. John's at Madison Square Garden
Marcus Hatten scored a career-high 34 points and Eric King scored twice on offensive rebounds in overtime as St. John's beat Connecticut 85-83. Caron Butler had 29 points and 15 rebounds for the Huskies, while Ben Gordon added 23 points.
5-6 p.m. - 1996 Big East Championship Connecticut vs. Georgetown at Madison Square Garden
The third-ranked Huskies overcame a cool second half by Ray Allen with a game-closing 12-0 run, capped by Allen's game-winning jumper, to beat No. 6 Georgetown 75-74 to complete a sweep of the regular-season and tournament titles. It was something they could not do the previous two seasons.
6-8 p.m. - Live: Cincinnati at St. John's
8-10 p.m. - Live: Providence at DePaul
The Series With Cincinnati
St. John's holds a 4-2 advantage over the Bearcats in a series that dates to 1952. The Feb. 4, 2007 meeting last season marked the first BIG EAST contest played between the two schools.
In the 2007 matchup, Qa'rraan Calhoun scored 18 points, and St. John's got its first BIG EAST road victory, beating Cincinnati 73-64 despite a front-line injury and sloppy ball handling. St. John's led the entire game and finished it off behind forward Anthony Mason Jr., who left the game with a dislocated finger early in the second half. He returned with his fingers heavily taped, and winced after making a 3-pointer and a clinching layup in the closing minutes. Mason Jr., the Red Storm's second-leading rebounder, dislocated a finger on his left hand while getting stripped of the ball early in the second half. Mason Jr., who is right-handed, went to the bench in pain, then left the floor to get his middle and ring fingers taped together. He returned midway through the half and helped St. John's close it out. Mason Jr. made a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then grabbed his injured finger in pain, after the Bearcats got within 60-54. He followed with a fastbreak layup and a pair of free throws that rebuilt the lead to double-digits, wincing every time he shot.
Before 2007, the teams had not met since Feb. 2, 1978, a regular season matchup at Madison Square Garden when Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca roamed the Redmen sidelines.
Until last season, all five of the series meetings had occurred in the World's Most Famous Arena, and the 1964 and 1961 contests were part of what was then the ECAC Holiday Festival. Legendary mentor Joe Lapchick coached St. John's in those games.
The first and second meetings in the series were regular season games for the Redmen, coached in 1952 by Frank McGuire and 1956 by Al "Dusty" DeStefano.
Kings Of Queens
The Red Storm is currently 4-1 on the year on campus at Carnesecca Arena. St. John's has averaged 76.2 points per game while shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range. An average home crowd of 3,567 spectators have come out to support the Red Storm at its on-campus venue this season.
St. John's is 398-73 (.845) in its 47 seasons at Carnesecca Arena, which was known as Alumni Hall before being renamed in 2004-05. The Red Storm owns a 22-6 (.786) mark in Queens during the Norm Roberts Era, including an 19-4 (.826) record against non-conference competition.
The Red Storm posted a 9-1 record in 10 regular-season games at Carnesecca Arena in 2006-07, with a 68.2 ppg scoring average, a 44.8 percent field goal percentage and a 36.6 percent mark from 3-point range in its on-campus home. The nine wins in Queens helped the Red Storm to a 14-5 overall home record last season.
In 10 games in 2006-07 at the former Alumni Hall, the raucous Queens crowd averaged 4,255 fans per game, playing to more than 70 percent capacity.
The Red Storm posted a 5-2 record on the Queens campus in 2005-06, contributing to its overall 10-7 home mark between all games at Carnesecca Arena and Madison Square Garden. In 2005-06, St. John's avenged losses from 2004-05 against the likes of St. Francis (64-50, Nov. 22) and Niagara (67-61, Nov. 26). St. John's lone setbacks of the season in Queens were a 64-51 loss at the hands of Hofstra on Nov. 29 and the March 5 loss to Rutgers (82-70).