This Saturday at 6 PM St. John’s welcomes the Cincinnati Bearcats to Carnesecca Arena for the first home Big East game of the year. The fans and will be at full throat for the 6-7 Bearcats, who hope to continue the good vibes that came from their gritty win over the Louisville Cardinals on New Year’s Day, the game that opened their Big East season.
The Bearcats actually have a worse record than the Red Storm, losing to Bowling Green, Belmont, Alabama-Birmingham, Memphis, Xavier in their crosstown shootout, North Carolina State, and Illinois State (who knocked off St. John’s last year). They have lost all their road games this year, and won 2 conference games last year. This should be a matchup of young teams trying to make progress in the tough league—Cincy has 6 freshmen on their roster, though their freshmen log fewer minutes than St. John’s frosh do.
St. John’s will have to watch out for the dangerous Deonta Vaughn, a sophomore who takes more of their shots and hits them, too, with a weighted/ effective field goal percentage of 57.2% (46.8 from 2pt range, 43% from 3pt range). The Bearcats play to be slow + grind it out, and St. John’s loves to play the same pace. This could be a game where the winner scores under 55.
Cincinnati is 6-7 in part because they don’t have big scorers. They distribute the scoring among many players but Deonta Vaughn is the most dangerous. He scores 15.3 per game, and the next two leading scorers are the center Adam Hrycaniuk and John Williamson. Jamual Warren has come back from injury recently, and is the other point guard on the roster (along with Vaughn). The two might play together in order to get Deonta more shot opportunities in space. Expect freshmen Larry Davis and Anthony McClain to get some time; Cincy coach Mick Cronin likes how his freshmen have been coming along.
#22 Rashad Bishop (f) 6ft 6, 220 5.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 36.7% 3PT%
#45 John Williamson (f) 6ft 6, 225 9.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg
#34 Adam Hrycaniuk (c) 6ft 10, 230 9.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg
#5 Deonta Vaughn (pg) 6ft 1, 195 15.3 ppg, 4.4 ast/g, 3.6 rpg, 3.0 to/g, 43.4% 3PA (6.4 attempts/ g)
#33 Jamual Warren (g) 6ft 2, 195 6.1 ppg, 3.9 apg, 4.1 rpg
#1 Marvin Gentry (g) 6ft 3, 180 7.8 ppg, 42.5% 3PT%
#10 Marcus Sikes (f) 6ft 8, 230 3.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg in 14.9 minutes/g
#11 Larry Davis (g) 6ft 3, 180 4.9 ppg
#30 Anthony McClain (c) 6ft 11, 245 3.3 ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.2 blocks/g in 9.6 minutes per game
Keys to the Game:
Defense Also Involves Covering the Dangerous Guy. One of the most frustrating things about the loss to Syracuse on Wednesday was how often the extremely dangerous Donte’ Greene was left open early in the first quarter. For a decent defensive team that was hustling to get in Syracuse players' faces, and one that must have started Sean Evans to check the mobile, agile, offensively hostile Greene, that was an unbelievable gaffe.
In this game, Deonta Vaughn is the dangerous guy. Stop him. Eugene Lawrence is made for this. He’s struggled recently, but has the strength and similar size to body up Vaughn and bother his offensive and passing game. Expect some steals from Lawrence, Kennedy, and Boothe.
Reach, Trap, Antagonize. To be successful, St. John’s defense has to force turnovers and take the other team out of their defense. The offense isn’t good enough to win without some easy opportunities. Additionally, Cincinnati has a pair of big men who can play, and St. John’s can’t let those players get a lot of good shots in the Red Storm’s soft interior (I guess the analogy would be eye, but you and I both know that doesn’t sound right).
Don’t Be the Coming-Out Party. Speaking of soft interior, Cincy Coach Cronin mentioned that he thinks center Anthony McClain is ghetting better every game. He’s 6’11" and scores 3.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks in his limited time (9.6 minutes/ game)—which would extrapolate to more than 13 points/ 40 minutes, and 13-14 rebounds/ 40 minutes and 4 blocks/ 40 minutes. He has ability, and our centers have displayed an early tendency to foul that seems to have improved. The centers will play a lot and need to be sharp defensively—the Cincy centers could be the key to the Bearcats finding easy shots and stealing a road victory.
St. John’s should pull this one out.