QUEENS, N.Y. - Fresh off a Saturday win over Dartmouth to complete the Red Storm's best non-conference record since 2009-10 (10-3, .769) -- and break up a five-game losing streak -- head coach Steve Lavinand the St. John's basketball team (10-8, 0-5 BIG EAST) play their final 2013-14 contest in Queens on Thursday. Local BIG EAST rival Seton Hall (11-7, 2-3 BIG EAST) makes its way from the Garden State to Carnesecca Arena for the 90th meeting between the two schools. The Red Storm and Pirates clash on the CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. -- one of 29 nationally-televised contests for St. John's in 2013-14 -- with Tom McCarthy and Alaa Abdelnaby on the call, and Molly Sullivan reporting from the sidelines. The matchup can be heard live on the official radio flagship of the IMG St. John's Basketball Network, Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM, on Sirius Channel 92 and XM Channel 191, and on RedStormSports.com (subscription), with veteran NYC announcers John Minko and Brandon Tierney.
The Red Storm owns a 7-1 record on campus in 2013-14 headed into its Carnesecca Arena finale. Now in its 53rd season, St. John's is 442-83 (.842) all-time in 525 games at Carnesecca Arena, with a 26-5 (.839) mark during The Lavin Era. The building, constructed in 1961, was re-named for St. John's Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca during the 2004-05 season.
St. John's owns a current RPI of 97, with the 33rd-toughest schedule in the nation (8-3 home; 0-3 road; 2-2 neutral). Three of St. John's losses have come to teams rated in the RPI's top six, including a neutral game vs. Wisconsin (RPI No. 5, 16-2) and games at The Garden vs. Villanova (No. 2 in the RPI, 16-2) and still-unbeaten Syracuse (RPI No. 6, 18-0).
Even though St. John's is still searching for its first BIG EAST triumph, Saturday's 69-55 non-conference victory over Dartmouth put a smile on the face of junior guard Phil Greene IV. The Red Storm hadn't been on the favorable side of the scoreboard in 21 days, but a superlative second-half effort resulted in a convincing win. Greene IV scored a game-high 16 points, including a career-best four 3-pointers. JaKarr Sampson added 13 for St. John's, which snapped a five-game losing streak with the win. Orlando Sanchezcontributed eight points, a career-high 10 rebounds and a career high-tying four blocks in a contest which saw nine Johnnies make their way into the scoring column.
St. John's holds a 55-34 advantage (89 meetings, fifth all-time in history), dating to Jan. 13, 1909, when SJU won 35-15 at home in Brooklyn. The Red Storm are 30-25 in conference play. SJU has taken four of the last five New York City matchups and owns a 34-9 record when at home. D'Angelo Harrisonscored 24 and Sampson had 19 in a 71-67 win last Jan. 27 at The Garden.
A Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team selection, D'Angelo Harrisonbecame the 48th player in St. John's history to reach the 1,000-point plateau last season, and tied as the eighth-fastest to do so (57 career games). Harrison is now 21st in St. John's history with 1,353 career points, having recently passed Mark Jackson, and is 22 points from a top 20 listing. He currently ranks fourth in the BIG EAST, and tied for 76th nationally, at 18.2 points per game. Harrison, who shoots 84.7 percent at the free throw line, is fifth among BIG EAST leaders and his 1.9 3-point field goals per game are tied for ninth. The Dec. 23 BIG EAST Player of the Week is SJU's all-time career 3-point leader with a new record of 168.
The 2013 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and a 2013-14 Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, sophomore JaKarr Sampsonaverages 11.9 ppg (T-22nd in the league) and is the Red Storm's leader in rebounding (6.4 rpg, T-7th in the BIG EAST). His season field goal percentage of .466 is 15th among all BIG EAST players. He is shooting 48.0 percent (60-of-125) from the floor in the past 12 games, while averaging 12.0 points in that stretch.
Windy City guard Phil Greene IVis scoring at an 8.8 ppg clip and showing his ability as a dynamic playmaker after recovering from offseason hip surgery. The junior and Nov. 25 BIG EAST Honor Roll selection has committed only seven turnovers in 444 minutes in 2013-14, an average of one per 63.4 minutes of court time.
Motor City sophomore Sir'Dominic Pointerhas earned the nickname "Costco" from Lavin for his propensity to provide whatever the team needs, and is averaging 6.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks. The Dec. 9 BIG EAST Honor Roll member currently paces the squad in thefts (28, fifth in the BIG EAST).
A game-changing shotblocker, 6-9 Chris Obekpa-- the BIG EAST and National Defensive Player of the Year candidate with the 7-5 wingspan -- is the BIG EAST leader and ranks second in the nation in rejections with a 3.8 blocks per game average. Last season, Obekpa paced the nation with 4.03 bpg, established a new single-season St. John's and BIG EAST freshman mark with 133 rejections, and swatted a school-record 11 shots in the victory vs. Fordham (Dec. 8, 2012). Obekpa's four blocks at Xavier (Dec. 31) made him St. John's all-time leader, passing former record-holder Robert Werdann (188, 1989-92), and Obekpa now totals 201 rejections for his career. This season he averages 3.2 points in addition to 5.0 rebounds (T-21st in the BIG EAST).
Senior Orlando Sanchez-- whose story of perseverance over seemingly insurmountable obstacles was chronicled by Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com last season -- was granted one year of eligibility from the NCAA and is averaging 7.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.7 apg and 1.3 bpg. Over the last three games, the 6-9 highly-skilled forward is averaging 10.3 points on 42.3 percent shooting to go along with 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
Lone freshman Rysheed Jordan, the 2013-14 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year, has played in 16 games with 11 starts, and is averaging 7.4 points and a team-leading 42 assists (2.6 per game) in 20.9 minutes per outing. Over his last 10 appearances, those numbers have surged to 9.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 offensive rebounds, 2.7 assists and 23.9 minutes per contest.
Junior guard Jamal Branchhas played in all 18 games, averaging an impactful 12.3 minutes per contest. Branch is averaging 3.5 points and 1.7 assists in his past 13 outings.
Harvard transfer Max Hooper-- who scored 31 points via 10 3-pointers in a SJU game in Rome, Italy, this summer -- is 16-of-36 (.444) from distance over the last 13 games. His 38.6 percent success rate from long-range is tied for 12th among BIG EAST players.
Seton Hall owns a 11-7 record including a 2-3 conference mark, after snapping a three-game losing streak with a 67-57 win over Georgetown on Saturday at the Verizon Center.
As a team, the Pirates are averaging 76.3 points per game, including 7.9 3-pointers per game. Seton Hall is averaging 7.0 steals per game, including 5.6 in conference action.
Seton Hall is led by Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team senior Fuquan Edwin, who recently became the program's all-time steals leader. Edwin is averaging 12.6 points per game despite missing four games due to injury while Sterling Gibbs (15.3 ppg), Brian Oliver (12.4 ppg) and Eugene Teague (10.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg) have helped pace the Pirates' offense.
Head coach Kevin Willard is in his fourth season with Seton Hall, where he has amassed a 60-56 (.517) record. Through seven years as a head coach, at both Seton Hall and Iona, Willard has put together a 105-105 (.500) career record and led the Pirates to a 2012 NIT Tournament appearance.
Offense, Defense And Special Teams
Already 18 games into the 2013-14 season, all of St. John's offensive numbers have climbed. The Red Storm's season field goal percentage of .436 is an improvement on last season's mark of .417. The 3-point success rate is .343, compared to last year's .271. St. John's free throw percentage of .709 betters the .640 rate from a year ago.
On the other end of the floor, the Red Storm limits opponents to 67.8 points per game on 39.7 percent shooting and a 35.0 percent mark from long-distance.
St. John's national-leading block percentage and defensive rebounding percentage of 67.4 leads to its transition game, where the Red Storm is among the national leaders in ball control statistics despite its high-volume pace of play.
St. John's hits the road for a pair of BIG EAST contests against new conference rivals, at Butler (Saturday, Jan. 25, 4 p.m. FSN National) and at Creighton (Tuesday, Jan. 28, 9 p.m., FOX Sports 1).