In less then a hour St. John’s will tip off against Pittsburgh in the Peterson Events Center, a venue that has seen tremendous success for the home Panthers, with only two losses in the last two seasons. This year’s Pitt team is currently ranked 9th in both polls behind leader and Big East Preseason player Aaron Gray. Gray is currently a double-double of 14.8 points and 10.2 boards a game.
Last season the Red Storm knocked off the undefeated Panthers in a thriller at the Garden. Lamont Hamilton did a tremendous job down low holding the Pittsburgh front court to 18 points combined between Gray and Levon Kendall. Senior Carl Krauser was cold all game and shot 5-17 from the floor, only netting 10 points. The final score was 55-50.
St. John’s can defiantly look back the that game to try to duplicate their success against Pitt today. They held Pittsburgh to 35.2% shooting while playing a zone defense throughout the game. Expect to see the same defense today although don’t expect quite the same success. This year’s team has more outside shooters with newcomer Mike Cook and bigger roles for both Levance Fields, who knocked down 6 three pointers in Pitt’s latest win over Cincinnati, and Ronald Ramon. St. John’s does not want to get in a shoot out with the Panthers so the zone defense should do the trick in that aspect.
There is no single player to single out while going up against the Panthers, seeing how they are have such marvelous depth, but St. John’s cannot afford to let Fields burn them up. Fields a one time St. John’s recruit, has shown the ability to break out in key moments, but in Pittsburgh’s only conference loss, Marquette held him to 2 points.
St. John’s will need to get a big game from Hamilton and Anthony Mason Jr., as they seem to be in a half court offense throughout today’s game. A lift from Avery Patterson would be absolutely huge for the Storm, as his three point shooting can pose a threat if Pittsburgh plays a zone defense. Also, in St. John’s big wins over Norte Dame and Syracuse this past week, Larry Wright and Qa’rraan Calhoun played great. Both played a lot of minutes giving St. John’s an energy boost and of course Larry Wright’s game winning shot versus Norte Dame gave them one of their biggest wins in the Norm Roberts era.
All in all, a big task for the Storm today playing in an extremely tough arena, especially for a team like St. John’s that has been a terrible road team the past few years. Daryll Hill is expected to return today and we will see who’s minutes take a hit when Lawrence and Wright have been playing such good basketball. St. John’s will need a big run in this game keyed by some outside shooting, so let’s hope Patterson and Torres (if we haven’t seen the last of him already) ate their Wheaties this morning.