QUEENS, N.Y. -
Winners of six of their last seven games, head coach Steve Lavin and the St. John's basketball team (15-9, 5-6 BIG EAST) travel to the Garden State to take on local BIG EAST rival Seton Hall (13-11, 4-7 BIG EAST). St. John's looks to win its first road game in the series since Feb. 15, 1998, on Thursday at 9 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 -- one of 29 nationally-televised contests for St. John's in 2013-14 -- with announcers Justin Kutcher and Tarik Turner. The matchup will air on the official radio flagship of the IMG St. John's Basketball Network -- Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM -- via Sirius Channel 85 and XM Channel 85, and on RedStormSports.com (subscription), with veteran NYC announcers John Minko and Brandon Tierney.
The Red Storm owns a current RPI of 61, with the 35th-toughest schedule in the nation (11-3 home; 2-4 road; 2-2 neutral). St. John's is 1-4 vs. the RPI Top 12 after the 70-65 victory over Creighton (RPI No. 12, 19-4) on Feb. 9 at The Garden. Four of St. John's losses have come to teams rated in the RPI's top 13 -- a neutral game vs. Wisconsin (RPI No. 7, 19-5), at The Garden vs. still-unbeaten Syracuse (RPI No. 3, 23-0) and Villanova (RPI No. 5, 21-2), and at Creighton. St. John's is 4-7 vs. the RPI Top 100, 7-9 vs. the RPI Top 150, and has return a game at Villanova on Feb. 22.
The Red Storm has now won four games away from home in 2013-14, capturing conference road victories at Butler on Jan. 25 and at Providence on Feb. 4 (2-4 in league road games). The other two away-from-home wins this season came in neutral contests at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. St. John's was 5-8 on the road in 2012-13 with three BIG EAST road wins.
St. John's comes into Sunday's contest in seventh place in the BIG EAST, having played five of its first eight league games on the road, and falling three times by three points or less (at DePaul, 77-75, Jan. 14; Providence, 84-83 2OT, Jan. 16; at Creighton, 63-60, Jan. 28). The BIG EAST's fourth-through-sixth place teams currently own six victories; the third-place team has seven.
D'Angelo Harrison scored 19 points as SJU topped then-No. 12/12 Creighton on Sunday. JaKarr Sampson scored eight with five boards and used four of his fouls during a concerted effort to limit Bluejay All-American Doug McDermott. Sir'Dominic Pointer and Phil Greene IV had nine points, Chris Obekpa scored 11, and two-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week Rysheed Jordan totaled five points, five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and only one turnover in 30 minutes.
St. John's holds a 56-34 advantage (90 meetings, fifth all-time in history), dating to Jan. 13, 1909, and is 31-25 in BIG EAST play. SJU is 12-21 in road games and has not won a meeting in New Jersey in eight tries. Sampson, Orlando Sanchez and Harrison all scored 16 points as St. John's hung on for a 77-76 victory over Seton Hall on Jan. 23 in Queens.
A Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team selection, D'Angelo Harrison became the 48th player in St. John's history to reach the 1,000-point plateau last season (eighth-fastest, 57 games). Harrison is now 14th in St. John's history with 1,464 career points, having recently passed legend Walter Berry (1,424, 1985-86) and fan favorites Lavor Postell (1,427, 1997-2000) and Anthony Glover (1,434, 2000-03). He currently ranks third in the BIG EAST, and tied for 78th nationally, at 18.3 points per game. Harrison, who shoots 86.0 percent at the free throw line, is tied for third among BIG EAST leaders and his 2.0 3-point field goals per game are seventh. The Dec. 23 BIG EAST Player of the Week and 12-time BIG EAST weekly award honoree is SJU's all-time career 3-point leader with a record of 182.
The 2013 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and a 2013-14 Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, sophomore JaKarr Sampson averages 12.5 ppg (18th in the league) and is the Red Storm's leader in rebounding (6.3 rpg, 8th in the BIG EAST). His season field goal percentage of .488 is tied for eighth among all BIG EAST players. He is shooting 53.7 percent (51-of-95) from the floor in the past eight games, while averaging 14.3 points and 5.6 rebounds.
Lone freshman Rysheed Jordan, the 2013-14 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year and current Rookie of the Week, is averaging 8.1 points and leading the squad in assists with 72 (3.3 per game, 12th in the BIG EAST; 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio, T-10th). In BIG EAST play, those numbers have surged to 9.6 points, 3.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 offensive rebounds and 28.1 minutes per contest.
Motor City junior Sir'Dominic Pointer has earned the nickname "Costco" from Lavin for his propensity to provide whatever the team needs, and is averaging 6.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks. The Dec. 9 BIG EAST Honor Roll member currently paces the squad in thefts (33, 5th 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 eighth in the nation in rejections with a 3.3 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 213 rejections for his career. Over the last four games he has contributed 9.8 points on a .750 mark from the field in addition to 5.8 rebounds.
Windy City guard Phil Greene IV is scoring at a 7.9 ppg clip and showing his ability as a dynamic playmaker after recovering from offseason hip surgery. The Nov. 25 BIG EAST Honor Roll selection has committed only eight turnovers in 548 minutes in 2013-14, an average of one per 68.5 minutes.
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 7.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.3 apg and 1.2 bpg. Over the last 17 games, the 6-9 highly-skilled forward is averaging 8.1 points on 50.9 percent shooting to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists.
Junior guard Jamal Branch has played in all 24 games, starting four. He is averaging 4.8 points on 47.8 percent field goals and 1.8 assists in the past six contests, including an eight-assist, zero-turnover day at Butler (Jan. 25).
Harvard transfer Max Hooper -- who scored 31 points via 10 3-pointers in a SJU game in Rome, Italy, this summer -- is 17-of-40 (.425) from distance over his last 16 appearances.
Seton Hall enters Thursday's game with a 13-11 record and a 4-7 conference mark, having fallen its last three-of-four games but picking up an impressive win on the road against Xavier, 68-60, on Feb. 1.
As a team, the Pirates are averaging 74.1 points per game, including 7.9 3-pointers per game. Seton Hall leads the conference with 171 steals this season, averaging 7.1 per game including 6.6 in league play.
Seton Hall is led by Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team senior Fuquan Edwin, who became the program's all-time steals leader after surpassing Dan Callandrillo's previous record of 260 earlier this year. Edwin is averaging 13.7 points per game despite missing four games due to injury while Sterling Gibbs (14.4 ppg), Brian Oliver (12.0 ppg) and Eugene Teague (10.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg) have helped pace the Pirates' offense.
Head coach Kevin Willard is in his fourth season with Seton Hall where he has accumulated a 62-60 (.508) record. Through seven years as a head coach, at both Seton Hall and Iona, Willard has put together a 107-109 (.495) career record and has led the Pirates to a 2012 NIT Tournament appearance.
St. John's meets Georgetown for the 101st time in history on Sunday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. at The Garden (FOX Sports 1).