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Gametime! Game 24 preview + game thread, St. John's at Cincinnati

Listen/ See: The Avalanches, Since I Left You (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 12:00 PM, Eastern
At: Cincinnati Bearcats
Location: Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati, OH
TV: MSG | Radio: Bloomberg 1130 AM
Opposition blog/ message board: Bearcats Blog | Down the Drive

Pomeroy page

Last time: The 53-51 loss at Carnesecca (will these two teams always play ugly basketball?) - free throws and late-game defense doomed the Red Storm in a game where their defensive pressure dominated for much of the game. Bearcat guards Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick combined for 1 point on 8 shots; but Larry Davis and Justin Jackson carried the Cincy squad for stretches outside and in, respectively.

That was a bad loss, becuase it was eminently avoidable. 14-26 from the free throw line is simply bizarre, with D.J Kennedy missing 4 of his 8, and Hardy getting to the line once (and missing). And now, St. John's faces those Cincinnati Bearcats on the road, with a noontime Sunday tip - the energy level (or LACK of energy) between the teams will be something to watch.

Once again, this is close to a knockout game for NCAA inclusion; the winner should have the inside track in the Big East. Hopefully, the Johnnies will be feeling their swagger, and will play like they did against Connecticut. For more preview, game thread!, media links, and Keys to the Game, keep reading below!

For more on what's changed between the two clubs, see the 5 questions with the Bearcats Blog and my answers to his questions, as well.

Keys to the Game

Play defense just as well. The Red Storm flummoxed the Bearcats in the last matchup, forcing 8 turnovers from point guard Cashmere Wright. He'll be better, I expect, and the guards of the Bearcats will look to correct their mistakes, also. Can St. John's defend them as well and force as many turnovers?

Defend the paint better. St. John's allowed the Bearcats' bigs to get some clutch buckets, and Yancy Gates in particular got solid position. With his penchant for taking long jumpers, the Johnnies need to work harder to keep him away from the basket. The Bearcats need to be forced to take lots of long twos.

Keep the Bearcats off of the glass. Cincinnati is one of the better rebounding teams in the conference, despite Gates' ability to forget that he weights 260 pounds. They got numerous second chance opportunities last time.

Play a crisp(er) offensive game. The Bearcats height and length on the wings was obviously bothersome to St. John's. Can the Red Storm get Hardy going against a defense that is less dependent on extending pressure (leaving room for Hardy to attack)? Can D.J. Kennedy make plays as he did in Carnesecca? Can the Johnnies get some offense in transition? Can the team hit their dadgummed free throws this time?

Get to the free throw line. St. John's will have chances to draw fouls from the often-sloppy Bearcat wings.

Media links

Red Storm Sports: Road Rematch: STJ Visits Cincinnati For Sunday Meeting With The Bearcats
Already playing a consensus top-two national schedule and now facing a stretch of three conference games in six days -- including two-straight away matchups -- head coach Steve Lavin and the St. John's men's basketball team take to the road for their second season meeting with Cincinnati.

NY Post: Hardy strengthens Storm surge in Big East -
"We already circled Cincinnati and talked about while it would be natural to want to celebrate and party with your classmates and enjoy this win, we just can't afford to," Lavin said. "We to wait until the spring [to celebrate] and sacrifice if we're going to do something special. As soon as the game was over we put Cincinnati on the board and circled them."

NY Daily News: St. John's basketball faces an important game for NCAA Tournament hopes against Cincinnati
The Red Storm (14-9, 6-5) has an important opportunity to do [move up the Big East ladder and build their tournament resume] Sunday when it meets Cincinnati (19-5, 6-5) at noon at the Bearcats' Fifth Third Arena. With the conference likely to get eight to 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament, the Johnnies have a chance to move ahead of a team they could very well be compared with by the NCAA selection committee.

ESPN NY: W2W4: St. John's at Cincinnati
EARLY ENERGY? The Red Storm will be just 63 hours removed from a huge victory over No. 9 UConn at Madison Square Garden -- a win after which many pundits placed St. John's in the Big Dance for the first time since 2002. But Steve Lavin's bunch still has plenty of work to do. They need three more wins in their final seven regular-season games to finish .500 (9-9) in the Big East, which would be very significant come Selection Sunday. They might still get in at 8-10, but do you really want to take that chance?

Watch and see if St. John's has intensity early, or if there is a hangover from the UConn victory. It won't help that it's a road game, and an early tip-off.

Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Bearcats eye sweep of St. John's
The Bearcats won that game because they survived a season-high 17 turnovers, because St. John's went 12 of 26 from the free throw line and because Gates came up big when his teammates needed him.

They also prevailed because they limited senior guard Dwight Hardy to 10 points, which didn't seem such a major achievement then, but does now. If they can hold Hardy in check again in the rematch Sunday at noon at Fifth Third Arena, the Bearcats will have a good chance to pull off a sweep of the Red Storm. If not, it could be a long afternoon for the home team.

Cincinnati Bearcats official site: Bearcats Welcome St. John's To Town Sunday
LAST TIME VS. ST. JOHN'S -UC 53, SJU 51: Jan. 22, 2011, Carnesecca Arena
-Final: Yancy Gates scored a game-high 13 points, including a three-point play with 8 seconds left in the second half to lift Cincinnati past St. John's 53-51 and give UC a 4-3 record in BIG EAST play.
-Defining Moment: Down 51-50, Gates made a turn-around jumper using the glass while getting fouled. His ensuing successfull free throw gave UC a 53-51 lead with 8 seconds remaining in the game.
-Performance Leaders: Yancy Gates - 13 pts., 8 reb., 1 steal.; Cashmere Wright 10 pts., 4 ast., 3 reb.; Justin Jackson - 8 pts., 6 reb.