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Thursday, December 1, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Kentucky 81, St. John's 59

By Kieran Darcy

Recap | Box score

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A quick take on St. John's 81-59 loss to Kentucky on Thursday night at Rupp Arena.

WHAT IT MEANS: St. John's (4-4) fails in its bid to knock off the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. It was a tall order -- especially considering it was the Red Storm's first road game of the season, and six of the seven regulars were playing their first Division I game away from home. Nevertheless, they will be disappointed, particularly considering the margin of defeat.

The Red Storm, who were without head coach Steve Lavin as he continues his leave of absence to recover from prostate cancer surgery, are now 0-3 against Top 25 opponents this season.

THE SKINNY: St. John's, which has been prone to poor starts this season, hung with Kentucky in the first five minutes. Then the Wildcats ripped off a 12-0 run to go up 16-5. The Red Storm responded with a 7-0 run themselves, cutting the lead to 16-12. But Kentucky expanded their advantage again before intermission, leading by as many as 12, and 31-20 at the break.

Kentucky pushed the lead to 16 early in the second half, 38-22, and St. John's never got the deficit back into single digits. The Wildcats eventually wore down the undermanned Johnnies, leading by as many as 27.

RETURN TO SENDER: Kentucky led the nation in blocked shots coming in, averaging 10.3 per game. The Wildcats had 10 in the first half alone on Thursday night. They finished with a whopping 18 blocked shots -- a school record.

Freshman sensation Anthony Davis -- 6-foot-10, with arms that appear about twice as long -- had a sensational game for the Wildcats, with 15 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks.

SPLIT DECISION: God'sgift Achiuwa was the bright spot for St. John's, playing well against a big-time opponent after struggling at Madison Square Garden against Arizona and Texas A&M. Achiuwa finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Moe Harkless had 16 and 10, but it was a quieter 16 and 10.

St. John's got very little from starting guards Nurideen Lindsey and D'Angelo Harrison, the team's top two scorers heading into this game. The pair -- who were averaging 28.7 points combined -- contributed just six points on the night, five by Harrison. St. John's can't beat anybody that way, let alone Kentucky.

WHAT'S NEXT: St. John's faces another road game, at Detroit at 7 p.m. Monday. It figures to be another tough contest -- the Titans were picked to finish second in the Horizon League, and many people think Detroit is better than preseason favorite Butler.

It will be a special night in the Motor City, as the Titans' home court will be named after legendary ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale, a former coach at the school.