Two of the best scorers in the Big East will clash on Saturday when D'Angelo Harrison and the St. John's Red Storm battle Sean Kilpatrick and the 14th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena.
Steve Lavin's Red Storm fell short on the road against Villanova as they were dropped 98-86 in overtime. The loss came in the Big East conference opener for St. John's which is 8-5 overall after losing its second straight game. The loss was also the second in three tries on the road for the Red Storm who return home for their next three contests beginning against Rutgers on Wednesday.
Cincinnati rebounded from its first loss of the season with a 70-61 victory on the road in its Big East opener against Pittsburgh. The Bearcats have gotten off to a strong star this year with a record of 13-1. The lone loss was a 55-54 setback against No. 20 New Mexico. That loss came at home where the Bearcats have otherwise been unstoppable with a mark of 8-1. This is the first of a two-game homestand for the Bearcats who will host No. 21 Notre Dame in an intriguing matchup on Monday.
Since joining the Big East in 2005, Cincinnati has matched up with St. John's 10 times with the two squads splitting those decisions, including a series split last year. St. John's leads the all-time series 8-7.
Harrison showed just how explosive he can be offensively against Villanova as he dropped in a career-high 36 points in the loss. The big night for Harrison went to waste though as after forcing overtime the Red Storm allowed the Wildcats to open the extra session on a 10-0 run to take control and coast to the win.
No player in the Big East is scoring more than Harrison (22.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg) this season. The 6-foot-3 guard is also ranked sixth in the nation in terms of points per game and has scored at least 24 points in each of the last three games. After Harrison, JaKarr Simpson (13.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg) has been the next best option as the anchor on the interior. Phil Greene IV (10.4 ppg, 3.5 apg) has scored and distributed but not other player is scoring more than seven points per game. Overall St. John's has been the 10th-best scoring team in the Big East (71.5 ppg), while netting just 44.6 percent of its field goal attempts. Controlling the boards has been a real weakness as St. John's has a -11.6 margin on the boards, while allowing teams to collect the most rebounds per game (47.6) in the country.
After a dismal first half in which they managed just eight field goals, the Bearcats heated up in the second frame to top Pittsburgh. Cincinnati connected on 13-of-24 shots from the field in the final 20 minutes and outscored the Panthers from beyond the arc (9-0) and the free-throw line (25-15).
Kilpatrick (18.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg) has been nearly impossible for opponents to contain. The 6-foot-4 guard is fourth in the Big East in scoring and has been in double figures in every game this season. With his size he is able to score from anywhere on the floor and crash the boards as well. Kilpatrick is the focal points of the Bearcats' prolific backcourt trio that includes Cashmere Wright (14.3 ppg) and JaQuon Parker (11.9 ppg). All three are more than capable scorers and solid defenders. Frontcourt depth can be an issue for Cincinnati with Titus Rubles (6.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Cheikh Mbodj (5.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Justin Jackson (4.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) the top performers. Cincinnati is outscoring its opponents by nearly 20 points per game by allowing just 57.7 points per game on the nations eighth-lowest opponent field goal percentage (.355). The Bearcats are also second in the nation in rebounding (45.3 pg).