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Sunday, February 9, 2014
W2W4: St. John's vs. Creighton

By Kieran Darcy

Here's what to watch for when St. John's (14-9, 4-6 Big East) plays Creighton (19-3, 9-1 Big East) on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, AGAIN: St. John's has won five of six, and gotten itself back on the periphery of the NCAA Tournament picture. The Red Storm will need to win most of their games down the stretch to garner any consideration for an at-large bid, but a signature victory would really help.

They're 0-4 against ranked opponents this season, with two more chances left -- this one, and a game at Villanova on Feb. 22.

St. John's nearly knocked off Creighton just 12 days ago in Omaha, losing by three. And the Bluejays could be tired, after having to play DePaul on Friday night before traveling to New York. It's the biggest game of the season, but will a big crowd show up for this rare Sunday night game at the Garden? That remains to be seen.

THAT'S MORE LIKE IT: Chris Obekpa has emerged from his midseason funk to become a difference-maker for St. John's again, and he could be the big difference Sunday. Obekpa has had three strong games in a row, starting with his 11 points and five rebounds in the first matchup against Creighton.

The Red Storm dared national player of the year candidate Greg McDermott to beat them in that first meeting, choosing to focus on bottling up his teammates instead. McDermott did just that, pouring in a season-high 39 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds.

St. John's may take a different approach this time around, and Obekpa is the kind of player who could give McDermott trouble with his quickness and shot-blocking ability, whether he's guarding McDermott man-to-man or coming over to help. Obekpa has 10 blocks in the past two games. Let's see how much havoc he can wreak on Sunday.

THE BLUEJAYS: Creighton has won four games in a row since its lone Big East loss, at Providence (81-68) on Jan. 18. The Bluejays are tied for first place in the conference with No. 6 Villanova, and they thumped the Wildcats 96-68 in Philadelphia on Jan. 20.

McDermott, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound senior, is second in the country in scoring, averaging 25.3 points per game (plus 7.2 rebounds). He shoots nearly 50 percent from the field (49.6), and nearly 90 percent from the foul line (89.7). And he's not too shabby from 3-point range, either (42.6).

Ethan Wragge, a 6-foot-7 senior swingman, is the only other Bluejay who averages in double figures (11.9 ppg). Wragge averages 7.4 3-point attempts per game, and makes 50 percent. He buried nine treys (out of 14) in that blowout win at Villanova.

As a team, Creighton leads Division I in 3-point makes per game (10.8) and 3-point percentage (42.5). It also leads the nation in assists per game (18.1), is 12th in overall field-goal percentage (49.2), and 21st in scoring average (81.2). But the Bluejays are 347th (out of 351) in blocked shots per game (1.6), and 326th in steals (4.6).

St. John's remains No. 1 in blocked shots (8.3).