St. John's vs. Northwestern -- a preview

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
7:36
PM ET
St. John's will attempt to win its 15th Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival title -- and it's first since 2005 -- Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. against Northwestern.

The Red Storm will be on their home floor, but they'll face their toughest opponent of the season thus far. The Wildcats are 8-0, one of only nine undefeated teams left in Division I this season.

Northwestern throttled St. Francis (NY) 92-61 on Monday night to reach the Holiday Festival championship game, while St. John's scratched and clawed its way to a 62-57 win over Davidson.

On defense, St. John's has to be worried about the 3-point line -- the Red Storm have been susceptible to good 3-point shooters all season long. In fact, St. John's is ranked No. 308 (out of 335 schools) in Division I in 3-point field goal defense, letting opposing teams make 39.0 percent of their shots from behind the arc.

That could be toxic against Northwestern -- the Wildcats are the 11th-best 3-point shooting team in the country, making 42.1 percent of their attempts. John Shurna -- a 6-foot-8 junior forward and Northwestern's leading scorer at 24.0 points per game -- is shooting a remarkable 63.6 percent from the field, and an even more remarkable 61.9 percent from downtown.

On offense for St. John's, D.J. Kennedy needs to be at least as aggressive as he was against Davidson, when he collected a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds. Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee also need to look for their shot. St. John's will likely need good scoring performances from all three players to beat this Northwestern team -- a squad very likely to be the first in school history to make the NCAA Tournament.
Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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