Saturday, March 5, 2011
W2W4: St. John's vs. South Florida
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch in Saturday night's game between No. 15 St. John's (19-10, 11-6 Big East) and South Florida (9-21, 3-14) at Carnesecca Arena in Queens.
Tip-off is at 8 p.m. ET, and the game will air locally on MSG.
PREGAME SHOW: SJU vs. USF will be the very last game of the Big East regular season to tip off -- but today's a day to do some scoreboard watching beforehand. The biggest game to keep your eye on is Syracuse hosting DePaul at 4 p.m. -- St. John's would need the Orange to lose to the last-place Blue Demons (not bloody likely!) in order to have a shot at securing the No. 4 seed and a double-bye in next week's Big East tournament.
If Syracuse wins, St. John's will be playing for a tie for fourth place and will be the No. 5 seed -- the Red Storm would play the winner of No. 12 seed Seton Hall and No. 13 seed Rutgers on Wednesday afternoon at approximately 2:30 p.m.
SPECIAL OCCASION: Tonight is Senior Night, and there are a number of special things planned. First of all, Carnesecca Arena is sold out -- and it's being dubbed a "Carnesecca Blackout" because 6,000 black T-shirts are being distributed to fans as they enter the building. The team will be wearing its alternate black uniforms -- St. John's is 0-5 wearing these uniforms, but the players requested to wear them, planning to break the hex. Also, 4,000 Steve Lavin bobbleheads will be distributed tonight.
But most importantly, the nine St. John's seniors who have played such a major role in turning around this program will be honored tonight, in a ceremony approximately 20 minutes before tip-off.
"I think it will be mixed emotions," senior forward Sean Evans said on Thursday. "It's our final game in Carnesecca, but it's not going to be our final game this season. It's going to be tough to let go of Carnesecca, but we know we have more games ahead of us."
"There's been a lot of sweat, blood and tears into this building and into the floor of Carnesecca and Taffner [Field House]," said senior guard Paris Horne. "It's a special night for us."
BOUNCE IN THEIR STEP? St. John's will be looking to bounce back from adversity for the first time in a while, after having their six-game winning streak snapped at Seton Hall on Thursday. The players admitted after that game that they were a step slow and lacking some energy against the Pirates. Let's see if they have the intensity back tonight, particularly in the early stages of the game.
"It's going to help us a lot," Horne said of the Seton Hall loss. "We learn from what we didn't do. We didn't get after the ball, we didn't play our best defense like we usually do."
South Florida's biggest weapon is 6-foot-10 junior Augustus Gilchrist -- he's the only USF player averaging in double figures in scoring, at 13.1 points per game.
But the Red Storm's biggest challenge may be themselves -- handling the emotions of Senior Night, and recovering from an emotional loss to a cross-river rival.
"Coming off a loss like that, one that we think we should have won, will give us a little extra fire to win," Evans said. "Plus it's Senior Night and we want to finish the regular season on a high note."