St. John's knocks off Cincinnati 53-52 in an ugly upset win

USA TODAY Sports

They can't all be gems. But the tenacity St. John's showed was a thing of beauty.

A surprise in Cincinnati, as Steve Lavin's young St. John's squad knocks off the #14 ranked Cincinnati Bearcats 53-52 in a low-scoring affair.

A late surge brought the Bearcats the lead, but they couldn't stop St. John's guard D`Angelo Harrison. With a late, off-balance jumper (and a shot-clock saving, off-balance, double-covered, one-handed three a minute before), the Johnnies had just enough to win at Fifth Third Arena.

Harrison had 15 points, 13 in the second half. He chipped in 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

St. John's improves to 9-5, 1-1 in the Big East. Cincinnati falls to 13-2, 1-1 in the Big East.

Boxscore

Both St. John's and Cincinnati have spent the last five years or so playing ridiculously close nail-biters. And this evening's game, predicted to be a blowout by the oddsmakers, proved to be no different despite the disparity in experience.

The game may have been ugly. But the tenacity of the first Big East win - and first win over a ranked opponent this season - is a gem on the improving Johnnies' record. The game was also the team's first true road win of the season (unless Barclays is considered a St. Francis home).

St. John's was up by as much as 12 in the second half, deflecting and bothering the Cincinnati Bearcats passes. The Johnnies harassed Cincy star Sean Kilpatrick into a 3/14 night from the field, and forced the Bearcats to take much of their offense from outside the arc. But with D`Angelo Harrison with four fouls, the St. John's offense stagnated; the Bearcats clawed to a brief lead, and St. John's required Harrison's late heroics to salt away the W.

St. John's was led by Harrison and a bounce-back game from JaKarr Sampson; he scored 16 points despite often being made to feel uncomfortable by Cincy closeouts, and added 8 rebounds.

Sir`Dominic Pointer's stat line may look underwhelming (4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists), but his mix of dribbling, passing, and scoring helped organize the team in Jamal Branch's absence. Jamal Branch sat out after being poked in the eye in practice yesterday. Amir Garrett started in Branch's place to add size, and added 8 points.

Point guard Cashmere Wright led the Bearcats with 23 points and 10 rebounds. He and Titus Rubles (14 points) were the only Bearcats who could get comfortable on offense. Mick Cronin tried many combinations - including Far Rockaway's Jermaine Sanders - to spark his ranked team to a win.

St. John's outrebounded Cincinnati 40 to 34, and affected shots at the rim. Chris Obekpa led the Johnnies with 9 rebounds and 3 blocks to go with his 6 points.

Next up for St. John's is a meeting with Rutgers in Madison Square Garden at 7 pm on Wednesday January 9th. Rutgers beat ranked Pittsburgh in Piscataway this afternoon - the team Cincinnati beat last week.

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