Charleston, SC – The St. John's Red Storm will try to take down their first ranked opponent of the season when they tangle with the No. 16 Baylor Bears in the third place game of the Charleston Classic at TD Arena.
Baylor is still a viable contender to win the Big 12 this season despite losing three players to the NBA ranks. The Bears looked like they were on track for another long winning streak to start the season, as they notched three straight wins over Lehigh (99-77), Jackson State (78-47), and Boston College (84-74). Coach Scott Drew's team ran into a familiar Colorado opponent in the second round of the Charleston Classic and the Buffaloes avenged their NCAA Tournament loss to the Bears by defeating them by two points on Friday.
St. John's has not had an easy game to this point. Steve Lavin's squad was matched up with the defending Horizon League Tournament champion Detroit Titans in their opener. St. John's managed to hang on for a 77-74 win over Ray McCallum and the Titans before downing the College of Charleston by 11 points in the opening round of the tournament. Despite a stellar 27-point performance from D'Angelo Harrison, the Red Storm could not overcome Steve Prohm's Murray State Racers in the second round.
St. John's owns a 1-0 series advantage over the Bears from an 83-82 victory in Queens on Dec. 7, 1978.
Although he was often overshadowed by Quincy Acy and Perry Jones III last season, Pierre Jackson was the motor of Baylor's highly successful 2011-2012 team. The lightning quick point guard is not going to fly under anyone's radar this season with averages of 20.5 points, 6.8 assists, and 2.5 steals per contest. Jackson is surrounded by talent once again. Baylor swept the Big 12's first edition of weekly honors as Cory Jefferson earned the Player of the Week award and Isaiah Austin was deemed the Rookie of the Week. Jefferson was a key reserve on last season's team, but he has evolved into much more than a role player. The junior forward is averaging 15 points and 7.7 boards per game through three contests. Austin is one of the top freshman centers in the nation. He is already adapting to the collegiate game with steady healthy averages of 15.3 points and 7.7 boards per game. The freshman big man had a chance to tie the game versus Colorado in the closing seconds, but his first buzzer beater fell short. It will be interesting to see how the big rookie rebounds.
Harrison has been tremendous so far for St. John's with averages of 23.3 points, six rebounds, and 2.7 steals per game. His scoring outburst to start the season should be no surprise as he posted 17 ppg as a rookie. Phil Greene IV is second on the team with 11.3 ppg and is also producing a team-best 4.3 assists per game. Greene IV will have his hands full with Jackson just two days after he was asked to shut down Murray State's Isaiah Canaan. Sophomore forward Amir Garrett had scored in double figures in the team's first two games before a quiet 1-of-2 shooting performance versus the Racers his last time out.