Queens, NY – In a Big East Conference clash the St. John's Red Storm will bring in the No. 20 Pittsburgh Panthers to Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Pittsburgh has taken losses in its last two contests with setbacks against No. 17 Marquette and No. 25 Notre Dame. The recent struggles have the Panthers in eighth in the crowded Big East standings at 8-6 against league foes. However the Panthers are one of one of five teams in the conference with at least 20 wins. Up next the Panthers will host South Florida.
As for St. John's, it ended a two-game slide with a 69-54 win over South Florida on Wednesday. The Red Storm's postseason hopes are still hanging on with the team at 16-10 overall, while the it is also in eighth place in the conference standings (8-6). At home the Red Storm have a strong 12-3 record including wins in the last five bouts. St. John's travels to face Providence next.
Pittsburgh knocked St. John's out of the Big East Tournament last time these teams met up. The victory was the seventh in the last eight meetings for Pittsburgh. However the Red Storm leads the all-time series, 34-23.
In a brutal battle with Notre Dame the Panthers' offense stalled in a 51-42 defeat. Pittsburgh shot just 34.8 percent from the field and missed on all eight attempts from 3-point range. Pittsburgh was also on the short end of a 40-25 margin in rebounds.
Low-scoring, defensive battles are right in Pittsburgh's wheel house normally. The Panthers are letting up the seventh fewest points per game in the nation (55.2 pg), holding teams to less than 40 percent from the field. Offensively the Panthers play extremely efficiently shooting the 21st best percentage from the floor (.476) while assisting on 16.8 field goals a game which is eighth nationally. Tray Woodall (10.9 ppg, 5.3 apg) is the leading scorer on the team as well as one of the top 10 players in the conference in assists. Woodall had a team-high 11 points against Notre Dame. Lamar Patterson (10.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Talib Zanna (10.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg) are also double-figure scoring threats.
St. John's dominated the first half against South Florida and then coasted to victory in the final 20 minutes. The Red Storm led 33-17 at the break by holding the Bulls to just seven field goals on 25-percent shooting. JaKarr Sampson had a game-high 20 points in the battle.
The Red Storm are another strong defensive team that holds opponents to less than 40 percent shooting. The squad's strength has been protecting the rim as it leads the country in blocks (7.4 pg). Chris Obekpa (3.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.1 bpg) leads the way in that regard as the active leader in blocks in the nation with Kentucky's Nerlens Noel out for the season. D'Angelo Harrison (18.3 ppg) is the leading scorer on the roster, while Sampson (14.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) has also provided strong scoring efforts. Harrison has been in double figures in eight of the last nine contests, while Sampson bounced back from an eight- point effort against South Florida.