Saturday, February 12, 2011
W2W4: St. John's at Cincinnati
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch in Sunday afternoon's game between St. John's (14-9, 6-5 in Big East) and Cincinnati (19-5, 6-5) at the Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Tip-off will be at noon ET, and the game will air locally on MSG.
EARLY ENERGY? The Red Storm will be just 63 hours removed from a huge victory over No. 9 UConn at Madison Square Garden -- a win after which many pundits placed St. John's in the Big Dance for the first time since 2002. But Steve Lavin's bunch still has plenty of work to do. They need three more wins in their final seven regular-season games to finish .500 (9-9) in the Big East, which would be very significant come Selection Sunday. They might still get in at 8-10, but do you really want to take that chance?
Watch and see if St. John's has intensity early, or if there is a hangover from the UConn victory. It won't help that it's a road game, and an early tip-off.
CHARITY STRIPE: St. John's will also be looking for revenge, after Cincinnati's 53-51 win over the Red Storm at Carnesecca Arena on Jan. 22. That game essentially came down to one thing: free throws. St. John's shot an abominable 12-for-26 from the foul line, and it cost them a W.
Overall, St. John's has been much improved at the foul line this season -- as a team, the Red Stom are shooting 70.9 percent, up from 65.2 percent a season ago. They'll need to knock down a few more against the Bearcats this time around.
It would also be nice not to get swept by Cincinnati, a team that it could conceivably be alongside on the bubble, if St. John's struggles down the stretch.
ENCORE?Dwight Hardy has been absolutely sensational for St. John's of late. He has set career highs in scoring the past two games -- 32 points against UCLA, followed by 33 against UConn. And that's not to mention 26 against Duke on Jan. 30.
Can Hardy post a career-best for the third straight game? Not likely -- especially considering this figures to be a relatively low-scoring game. But it'll be fun to watch him nonetheless, as he continues to grow in confidence and blossom as a player.