Wednesday, January 19, 2011
W2W4: St. John's at Louisville
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch in Wednesday night's game between St. John's (11-5, 4-2 in Big East) and No. 15 Louisville (14-3, 3-1) at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and the game is available on ESPN3.com (local blackout rules apply). The game will also air locally on SNY.
UNDER PRESSURE: St. John's better be ready for a dose of its own medicine --Rick Pitino's squad will apply relentless full-court pressure. The Cardinals are fourth in the country, averaging 10 steals per game.
The Red Storm have been much improved in the turnover category this season -- currently they are averaging only 11.8 per game, making them No. 35 in all of Division I. But they haven't faced a team like Louisville yet. And St. John's must not only break the press, but capitalize on it to get some easy buckets.
"You have to use judgment at the end of the press attack to not take that in-between shot," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said on Tuesday. "You either have to get a layup or draw a foul or break it off and run your half-court offense."
Lavin said his team should be well-prepared to face Louisville. "The beauty is from the first day of practice, we go against each other and our full-court press," Lavin said. "There couldn't be a better scenario, in terms of being a full-court pressure team ourselves, in that we face our changing pressure schemes."
ON THE OTHER END: Louisville lives and dies by the 3-pointer -- the Cardinals are ninth in the country in 3-point makes per game (9.4), and 53rd in the country in 3-point percentage (37.8).
St. John's remains one of the weakest teams in America (No. 263) in 3-point field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot 36.5 percent from beyond the arc. But the Red Storm did a much better job in their win over Notre Dame on Sunday, limiting the Fighting Irish to 3-for-15 shooting from long range. Their defensive effort in general was outstanding -- let's see if they can come anywhere close to replicating that effort on the road.
Preston Knowles is the Louisville player to especially keep an eye on -- the 6-foot-1 senior is the team's leading scorer (15.6 points per game), and is shooting 43.4 percent from downtown.
LET DOWN? Louisville is coming off a dramatic comeback win at home over Marquette on Saturday -- the Cardinals trailed by 18 with 5:44 to play, but stormed back to win 71-70. There's always the possibility of a letdown after a W like that, but don't expect Louisville to take the Red Storm lightly. After all, Pitino picked St. John's to win the Big East in the preseason coaches' poll.
As for Lavin's crew, they sound like they're continuing to build confidence. They've now beaten two ranked teams in a season for the first time since 2005-2006 -- a win over Louisville would give them wins over three ranked teams for the first time since 2001-2002. It would also be their first road win over a top-25 team since 2002.
"I think now we know we can beat any team on any given night as long as we play our style of basketball," said guard Dwight Hardy on Tuesday. "Compared to last year, I think our minds were saying like, 'Oh man we have another game. Let's see how it plays out.' Instead of this year where we go into a game knowing that we can win the game."