Saturday, December 15, 2012
W2W4: St. John's vs. St. Francis (NY)
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch when St. John's (7-3) faces St. Francis of Brooklyn (2-6) on Saturday at the Barclays Center.
Tipoff is at 5 p.m. This is the only St. John's game of the season that will not be televised.
NEW DIGS: This will be St. John's first game at the brand-new Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. The game is part of a tripleheader, dubbed the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. Fordham and Princeton play in the first game, at 2:30 p.m. No. 3-ranked Michigan plays West Virginia in the nightcap, at 8 p.m.
In case you didn't know, St. John's was actually based in Brooklyn when it first opened, way back in 1870. But this will be the team's first game in the borough since 1958.
BLOCK PARTY? It's pretty rare that you get excited to watch a basketball player on defense -- but St. John's freshman center Chris Obekpa is that kind of player. Ten games into his college career, Obekpa already has 49 blocked shots -- that ranks him third in the country in blocks per game (4.9), behind only Kansas' Jeff Withey (5.6) and Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski (5.2). As a team, St. John's is second in the country in blocks per game (9), just behind Kansas (9.1)
Obekpa had an incredible 11 blocked shots in the Red Storm's last game (a 58-47 win over Fordham last Saturday), which shattered the school record of eight -- set by Obekpa in the season opener against Detroit. Let's see what he does for an encore.
THE TERRIERS: St. Francis opened the season with an 11-point win at Lafayette, but has lost six of seven since then, including its past four -- to Norfolk State (by six), Albany (by four), Boston College (by eight) and Stony Brook (by 16). The Terriers were picked to finish fifth in the Northeast Conference in the league's preseason poll.
Six-foot-six, 230-pound sophomore forward Jalen Cannon is the team's star, leading the Terriers in both scoring (16 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg). Cannon is shooting 65.1 percent from the field. Kevin Douglas, a 6-foot-5 sophomore swingman, is averaging 11.5 points per game and shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range.
St. Francis can score, but it's very weak on defense and on the boards. The Terriers are ranked No. 324 in Division I (out of 345 schools) in field-goal percentage defense (47.8), and No. 310 in scoring defense (75.3 ppg). They're also ranked No. 302 in rebounds per game (31.6).
This game will feature two of the worst teams in Division I when it comes to free throw shooting. St. Francis is No. 326 (60.2 percent), and St. John's not much better -- tied for No. 312 (62.3 percent).