QUEENS, N.Y. -
Having won four-straight to equal their entire win total from 2011-12 and pull into in a tie for third place in the BIG EAST standings, head coach Steve Lavin and the St. John's basketball team (13-7, 5-3 BIG EAST) have a chance to claim sole possession of third place when DePaul (10-9, 1-5 BIG EAST) visits Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday. The 9 p.m. back end of the home-and-home series -- which began only 11 days ago in Chicago vs. the fellow Catholic, Vincentian, Metropolitan Blue Demon squad -- airs nationally on ESPNU, with announcers Adam Amin and Tim Welsh. The matchup can be heard live on the official radio flagship of St. John's Basketball, Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM, and on RedStormSports.com (subscription), with veteran announcer John Minko.
The Last Meeting
January 19, 2013
Rosemont, Ill. (Allstate Arena)
Red Storm Downs DePaul, 71-62, For Third Road Win
Sir'Dominic Pointer registered his first-career double-double and Jamal Branch scored a career-high 18 points as Red Storm four players reached double-figures to lead St. John's to its second BIG EAST road win of the season, and third overall, with a 71-62 decision at DePaul.
Lavin is back in 2012-13 after posting a 2-2 record last season while making a full recovery from prostate cancer surgery (Oct. 6, 2011). Dr. Peter Scardino of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center placed Lavin on a modified schedule in 2011-12 that kept him off the sideline, enabling Lavin to better focus on a full recuperation, while simultaneously securing the No. 8 recruiting class in the nation per HoopScoop.com. St. John's 2012 rookie class is comprised of eight standout student-athletes representing five countries. The highly-acclaimed group followed a 2011 class ranked No. 3 nationally by ESPN. Lavin's record at St. John's is 36-21.
According to RPIRankings.com (Jan. 29), St. John's owns a current RPI of 51, with the 17th-toughest schedule in the nation (9-3 home; 4-2 road; 0-2 neutral). That includes a 3-1 BIG EAST road record. With a 5-1 mark in 2012-13 in Queens, St. John's is 433-82 (.841) in 515 games and 51-plus years at Carnesecca Arena, which has served as STJ's on-campus home since 1961.
BIG EAST Honor Roll member D'Angelo Harrison scored 24 points and Rookie of the Week JaKarr Sampson added 19 as St. John's won its fourth-straight game for the first time in three seasons, 71-67 over Seton Hall on Sunday at The Garden. Harrison scored 10 of the Red Storm's final 12 points, a burst that began with nine minutes left and helped keep the Pirates, who closed within one point with 4:21 to play, at bay. Phil Greene IV had 10 points while Chris Obekpa swatted four shots. The big man finished with four points, the last two on a tip-in with 41 seconds left.
Wednesday marks the 31st meeting in the series between the Red Storm and the Blue Demons, with St. John's holding a 16-14 edge overall and an 8-3 record in BIG EAST play. The Johnnies have won seven-straight in the series, including the team's matchup just 11 days ago. On January 19, Sir'Dominic Pointer posted his first career double-double and Jamal Branch scored a career-high 18 points to lead St. John's to a 71-62 win at Allstate Arena.
A Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, Harrison is second in the league in scoring with 19.8 points per game (17th nationally), and his 77.8 percent success rate at the free throw line ranks 14th among all BIG EAST players. The six-time BIG EAST Honor Roll member's 2.3 made 3-pointers per game rate fourth in the conference, he holds the team lead and is 12th in the league with 1.7 steals per game and his 35.9 minutes per game rank fifth in the BIG EAST. He is currently firing at a rate of 42.9 percent from the field and owns a 32.8 mark from beyond the arc. He has reached the 20-point plateau in 13 of St. John's first 20 games and scored a career-high 36 at Villanova (Jan. 2).
Second-year guard Phil Greene IV is making a run as the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player. After averaging 7.6 ppg as a freshman, he is currently scoring at an 8.5 ppg clip and showing his ability as a dynamic playmaker despite a hip injury. His 2.8 assists per game are in the top 20 among all BIG EAST players and his 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio is ranked 10th.
Sophomore swingman Amir Garrett spent the offseason in professional baseball as a left-handed pitcher within the Cincinnati Reds minor league system. In BIG EAST play he is averaging 6.3 ppg and 3.6 rebounds with an impressive .500 field goal percentage (tied for 13th) in 20.0 minutes per game.
Motor City sophomore Sir'Dominic Pointer is averaging 8.6 ppg on 68.6 percent shooting (second in the BIG EAST), 5.5 rpg and 1.8 spg (tied for ninth) in league play. St. John's toughest on-ball defender is heating up, averaging 10.3 ppg on 65.6 percent shooting from the field (21-of-32) with 5.7 rebounds (10-of-34 offensive), 2.7 assists and 1.0 steals across the last six games.
Five-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week JaKarr Sampson leads BIG EAST freshmen in both scoring (14.3 ppg, 15th overall) and rebounding (6.5 rpg, 10th overall). His rejections (1.3, tied for eighth) and defensive rebounds per game (4.7, eighth) are listed among the BIG EAST Conference leaders. Two of Sampson's preseason dunks were selected as SportsCenter Top 10 plays.
A game-changing shotblocker who craves defense, 6-9 Chris Obekpa -- the gamechanger with the 7-5 wingspan who paces the nation in rejections at 4.6 per contest -- led STJ with a school-record 11 blocked shots in the victory vs. Fordham (Dec. 8), and has nine games of five rejections or more. He tied the St. John's single-season record (76) in only 15 games, and eclipsed it in 16, now totaling 91. In conference play, he averages a league-leading 3.4 swats per game and is tied for 10th with 6.5 rebounds.
Texas A&M transfer point guard Jamal Branch, who averaged 4.2 points, 2.5 assists and 18.6 minutes across 11 games for the Aggies in 2011-12, has now played in eight games, drawing five starts. He is averaging 8.8 ppg, hitting at a 55.6 percent clip from the field (30-of-54), and adding 2.4 assists.
Athletic wing Felix Balamou continues to be a key playmaker. In the last 18 games he has averaged 2.6 ppg, connecting on 19-of-43 field goals (.442) while contributing 1.2 rpg in 10.0 minutes.
The final member of Lavin's eight-man recruiting class, freshman Christian Jones was the surprise of the preseason. He played one postgraduate year for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., averaging 12.0 points and 5.0 rebounds. In exhibition play he averaged 12.5 ppg on 66.7 percent shooting with 8.5 rebounds.
JUCO transfer Orlando Sanchez will not participate Wednesday as he awaits an eligibility ruling from the NCAA. Harvard transfer Max Hooper is eligible for game participation in the 2013-14 season.
Senior big man God'sgift Achiuwa, who averaged 9.5 ppg and 5.6 rpg in his JUCO transfer year in 2011-12, is in the midst of a redshirt season. Achiuwa, a member of St. John's University's prestigious President's Society, is on track to graduate with a degree in administrative studies and could complete Master's degree requirements by the end of 2013-14.
STJ visits our nation's capital to complete the regular season Georgetown series. The CBS national network game at Verizon Center takes place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2.
DePaul comes into Wednesday's matchup at 10-9 and 1-5 in the BIG EAST, good enough for 14th in the conference. After a seven-game winning streak before league play, the Blue Demons have lost six of their last seven and four in a row. Despite being just a game over .500, DePaul has been a strong road team, posting a 4-2 mark in away contests, including a 10-point road win over Providence on Jan. 5.
The Blue Demons like to play an up-tempo style of basketball as they average 70 points per contest in league play, the third-highest mark in the BIG EAST. However, the Blue Demons are allowing a conference-worst 80.7 points per game on defense, more than eight points than any other league team. The DePaul defense averages 9.3 steals per game, second in the BIG EAST and 15th nationally.
Junior forward Cleveland Melvin is DePaul's top scorer (17.1 ppg) and rebounder (7.5 rpg). Classmate Brandon Young is the team's second leading scorer (16.5 ppg). Both players are averaging 17 ppg in conference play, tying for fifth in the league. Young is also one of the top passers in the BIG EAST, ranking 11th with four assists per contest in conference play.
Head Coach Oliver Purnell is in his third year at the helm in the Windy City, compiling a 29-52 record in two-plus seasons. Known as a rebuilding expert, Purnell increased DePaul's win total in each of his first two season and is just three wins away from accomplishing the feat once again in 2012-13.