Cincinnati held the St. John’s men’s basketball team’s leading scorers Moe Harkless and D’Angelo Harrison in check and shot 52% from the field en route to a 76-54 blowout win at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 8.
Cincinnati (17-7, 7-4) and St. John’s (10-14, 4-8) had played four straight two-point games – including a 55-53 St. John’s win in January when Harkless tipped in a Harrison miss as time expired – and was broadcast as part of ESPN’s “Rivalry Week.”
But this game failed to live up to previous encounters. Cincinnati held St. John’s to 28 percent (9-of-32) shooting in the first half and led 30-19 at the break. The teams traded points in the first minutes out of the break before the Bearcats broke the game open with an 8-1 run to push their lead to 20 at 48-28 with 13:02 left, from which point they would never look back.
“We didn’t come out with strong enough effort on defense, and it bled into our offense,” Harkless said.
Harkless and Harrison, who came into the game averaging 32 points per game together, combined to shoot 6-of-21 and score just 21 points. Harrison scored two points in the first half, and struggled to find space against Cincinnati’s zone.
“D’Angelo, they were manning him on the right side of the floor,” assistant coach Mike Dunlap said. “So we started to move him and make some adjustments in there. But that was frustrating for D’Angelo in particular.”
St. John’s was playing its first game without junior guard Malik Stith, who left the team for personal reasons. Stith only averaged 14.6 minutes and 2.6 points per game, but he was looked up to as a leader by his younger teammates.
“He was one of the leaders on the team, so it definitely hurts,” Harrison said of Stith’s departure. “But the other players have to step up and fill his role … We’ve got to step up even more. [freshman guard] Phil [Greene], me, Moe – we’ve all got to take over this team.”
However, Dunlap said that his absence wasn’t the reason for the Johnnies poor play.
“No, [Stith’s absence] would be too easy to throw in that kettle,” Dunlap said. “I just thought, for whatever reason, we were flat.”
Harrison was the only player to score in double digits for the Red Storm, with 15 points, while former walk-on Jamal White hit his first two career three-pointers with less than a minute to play.
Four Cincinnati players scored in double digits. Senior Yancy Gates and sophomore Sean Kilpatrick each scored 14 points, while junior guard Cashmere Wright finished with a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The loss was St. John’s second straight by more than 20 points. However, Dunlap still hasn’t given up on his young team, which started five freshmen for the fourth time this season.
“We really look forward to coaching our team,” he said. “We didn’t like the result tonight, but I’m going to say again – very enthusiastic about what we have and where we’re headed.”