Off of a missed box out by Sean Kilpatrick, Maurice Harkless (14 points, 14 total rebounds) tapped in a put-back of a missed layup by D`Angelo Harrison (18 points, 7 rebounds, 3-8 3PT) to earn St. John's the hard-fought win over the Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena, 57-55.
Both teams started the game slowly and physically, but Cincinnati's defense and offensive rebounding earned them numerous extra shot attempts. Despite a shot disparity of 38 (from Cincy) to 22 (from St. John's), the Red Storm only trailed at the half by a score of 25-22, a bit of a victory with how discombobulated the team looked at first.
From there, St. John's cleaned up its act. The team cut down on the turnovers in the second half, going 4-8 from beyond the arc, and held Cincinnati to 26% shooting inside the arc in the second half. The Johnnies ballooned their lead to 15 with 10 minutes left in the second half.
But the Bearcats' ball pressure rattled Phil Greene and the team. Behind an awakened mid-afternoon crowd and 6 of Cashmere Wright's 8 points on the afternoon, the Bearcats clawed to a tie before Harrison's layup attempt was cleaned up by Harkless for the victory at the buzzer.
The Bearcats fall to 12-4, 2-1 in the Big East. St. John's improves to 8-7, 2-2 Big East.
Harkless and Harrison were helped by 9 points and 5 rebounds from God`sgift Achiuwa, 8 points from Amir Garrett (including his first career three-pointer), and solid defense from Sir`Dominic Pointer (2 points, 7 rebounds), who had his family in the house. Harrison continued to carry the team, taking the big shots and making acrobatic mid-range jumpers to pace the team. Harkless' defense and rebounding kept the rebounding disadvantage from being worse.
St. John's struggled with the quick scissor hands of the Bearcats, turning the ball over on 29% of their possessions. And they allowed the Bearcats to rebound almost 40% of their misses. St. John's scored .86 points per possession.
But the Johnnies defended with zone and man, keeping Cincy from getting easy looks at the basket in close... and taking advantage of their tendency to drift away from contact and shoot jumpers.
St. John's continues their midwestern swing with a trip to Marquette on Wednesday evening. The Red Storm will meet the Bearcats again on February 8th in Queens.
Cincinnati was led by Sean Kilpatrick's 21 points on 7 of 21 shooting (4-15 from beyond the arc), and Yancy Gates' 10 points off the bench. Dion Dixon had 4 steals (but 0 points on 8 shots), and Ge`Lawn Guyn had 2 thefts. Cincy shot 17.6% from beyond the arc in the first half, and when to the line 4 times, despite taking 38 shots. For the game, the Bearcats earned 12 free throws... and took a whopping 76 shots. Cincinnati scored .83 points per possession.
Cincinnati travels next to meet the Georgetown Hoyas on Monday.