QUEENS, N.Y. -
With two games remaining in the regular season and wins in seven of their last 12 contests, head coach Steve Lavin and the St. John's basketball team (16-12, 8-8 BIG EAST) remain on the road for the second-straight game as the Red Storm meets No. 24/24 Notre Dame (22-7, 10-6 BIG EAST) on Tuesday. The nationally-televised matchup airs at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 with announcers Rece Davis, Digger Phelps and Bob Knight. The contest can also 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
No. 20/20 Notre Dame
January 15, 2013
New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden)
St. John's is 2-5 on the season against ranked opponents, topping then-No. 20/20 Notre Dame at The Garden (67-63, Jan. 15) and winning at then-No. 14/15 Cincinnati (53-52, Jan. 5). The Red Storm has slayed nine Top 25 giants during the Lavin Era, eight coming with the third-year head coach on the sidelines. According to RPIRankings.com (March 4), St. John's owns a current RPI of 71, with the 38th-toughest schedule in the nation (12-4 home; 4-6 road; 0-2 neutral). The Red Storm is 4-6 in away games and 3-5 on the road in the BIG EAST, having posted away wins at Rutgers (72-60, Jan. 23), DePaul (71-62, Jan. 19) and then-No. 14/15 Cincinnati (53-52, Jan. 5).
JaKarr Sampson matched a career-high with 22 points and Sir'Dominic Pointer registered his fourth-career double-double, but in a game that featured six ties and 11 lead changes, Providence held on to defeat St. John's, 62-59, on Saturday. Sampson added six rebounds, and Pointer finished with a 13-point, 10-rebound, four-assist effort. Phil Greene IV contributed 10 points and Chris Obekpa had six points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks. The Red Storm finished just 1-of-11 (9.1 pct) from long range and 8-of-14 (57.1 pct) from the charity stripe.
The Fighting Irish hold a 20-19 advantage all-time, but the Red Storm has won the last two, including a 67-63 win over the then-No. 20/20 Irish on Jan. 15. St. John's used 17 points from Sampson, 13 from Greene and 11 from Amir Garrett for the win at The Garden, where STJ has won five-straight in the series. The last STJ win in South Bend came on Feb. 14, 2010.
Seven-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week and conference Rookie of the Year canidate JaKarr Sampson leads BIG EAST freshmen in both scoring (15.0 ppg, 11th overall) and rebounding (6.6 rpg, 12th overall). His rejections (1.2, 10th) and offensive rebounds per game (2.2, 13th) are listed among the BIG EAST Conference leaders. In conference play, his 15.2 ppg rank 11th. One more Rookie of the Week honor ties him with Notre Dame's Troy Murphy (1998-99) for the third-most in conference history.
After averaging 7.6 ppg as a freshman, guard Phil Greene IV is currently scoring at a 9.3 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 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio is ranked seventh. In the last nine games he is averaging 11.1 ppg, 2.7 assists and is shooting .941 (16-of-17) from the line. He has committed only 12 turnovers in the last 14 games (456 minutes).
Sophomore swingman Amir Garrett spent the offseason in professional baseball as a left-handed pitcher within the Cincinnati Reds minor league system. He is averaging 5.1 ppg and 3.5 rebounds with an impressive .466 field goal percentage in 17.2 minutes per game in a reserve role.
Motor City sophomore Sir'Dominic Pointer is averaging 7.8 ppg on a league-third 54.4 percent shooting mark, with 6.6 rpg (T-ninth) and 1.4 spg in BIG EAST play. St. John's toughest on-ball defender is heating up, averaging 8.4 ppg on 52.6 percent shooting from the field (40-of-76) with 6.9 rebounds (24-of-96 offensive), 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals across the last 14 games.
A game-changing shotblocker, 6-9 Chris Obekpa -- the Defensive Player of the Year candidate with the 7-5 wingspan who is second in the nation in rejections with 113 -- swatted a school-record 11 shots in the victory vs. Fordham (Dec. 8). He tied the St. John's single-season record (76) in only 15 games, eclipsed it in 16, and is averaging 4.04 bpg, also second in the NCAA. In conference play, he averages a league-leading 3.1 swats and is tied for ninth with a team-best tying 6.6 rebounds.
Texas A&M transfer point guard Jamal Branch has played in 12 games, drawing eight starts with five wins. In BIG EAST play he is averaging 7.5 ppg, hitting at a 44.7 percent clip from the field (34-of-76), and adding 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals. He scored a career-best 18 at DePaul (Jan. 19).
French sharpshooter Marc-Antoine Bourgault has caught fire in the last seven games, which includes five starts. He is averaging 6.3 ppg during that stretch in 18.7 minutes, which includes a 33.3 percent field goal mark beyond the arc (10-of-30).
Athletic wing Felix Balamou continues to be a key playmaker. In his last 24 appearances he has averaged 2.2 ppg, connecting on 22-of-49 field goals (.449) while contributing 1.1 rpg in 9.1 mpg.
The final member of Lavin's eight-man recruiting class, freshman Christian Jones was the surprise of the preseason. In exhibition play he averaged 12.5 ppg on 66.7 percent shooting with 8.5 rebounds, and has scored in 13-of-19 appearances on the year.
A Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, D'Angelo Harrison has been suspended for the rest of the season, head coach Steve Lavin announced on March 1. Harrison ranks third in the league in scoring with 17.8 points per game. The six-time BIG EAST Honor Roll member's 2.2 made 3-pointers per game rate fifth in the conference, he holds the team lead with 1.4 steals per game and his 35.0 minutes per game rank seventh in the BIG EAST.
JUCO transfer Orlando Sanchez will begin participation in 2013-14 as he was granted a Feb. 28 waiver 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, could complete Master's degree requirements by the end of 2013-14.
The regular season wraps up with a visit from Marquette at The Garden on Saturday, March 9, at 2 p.m. on ESPN.
Scouting Notre Dame
No. 24/22 Notre Dame comes into Tuesday's matchup at 22-7 and 10-6 in the BIG EAST, sitting in a tie for fifth in the conference. The Fighting Irish have won seven of their last 10 games and have a sparkling 16-2 record at Purcell Pavilion, including a 6-2 mark in conference play. UND has an RPI of 45, with a strength of schedule of 90.
Statistically, the Irish are one of the best shooting squads in the league, ranking third in the BIG EAST during conference play with a .442 field goal percentage. They are equally dangerous from outside, shooting at a .354 clip in league play, fourth best in the conference. Part of the team's success shooting comes from unselfish play, as UND leads the BIG EAST with 16.1 assists per game.
Individually, Jack Cooley, Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins are the top three scorers for Notre Dame, with Cooley averaging a double-double (13.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg). Atkins is the top marksman from outside, making a team-best 41 3-point field goals. Both Grant and Atkins excel in the passing lanes, with Grant averaging 5.8 assists per game in conference play, and Atkins averaging 5.0 per contest, ranking fourth and seventh respectively in the league.
Mike Brey is in his 13th season at the helm of Notre Dame, with a 282-139 record during that time. During his tenure, the Fighting Irish have made the NCAA tournament eight times and produced 10 first team All-BIG EAST selections, including three BIG EAST Player of the Year awards.