Johnnies Knock Off Ranked Bearcats

The St. John’s men’s basketball team held off a late rally from Cincinnati with the help of a delayed flourish from sophomore guard D’Angelo Harrison to defeat the No.14 ranked Bearcats 53-52 at Fifth-Third Arena in Cincinnati on Saturday evening.

The game was the first time that the Red Storm (9-5, 1-1) have defeated a No. 14 or higher ranked team on the road since they defeated the then No. 2 ranked Duke Blue Devils on February 26, 2000.

The Johnnies made a full reversal from their first Big East game, where they lost to Villanova in overtime, by stifling the Bearcats’ offense with successful zone defense and taking the lead in the rebounding category by a six-board margin.

The first sign that the contest was heading in a different direction from Wednesday’s contest came at the end of the first half as the Red Storm finished the half on a 12-2 run for a 24-21 lead. In past games this season, the Johnnies failed to close out the first half of games before running into more trouble in the second half. The first half also saw 10 points from freshman forward JaKarr Sampson, who was relatively silent against Villanova and only two points from Harrison, who had reached a new career high with 34 in the aforementioned contest.

In the second half, Harrison scored an additional 13 points while reaching four personal fouls. After receiving his fourth foul at the 6:35 mark, head coach Steve Lavin opted to keep his de facto team leader in the game while risking the possibility that Harrison could pick up his fifth foul which would force him out of the game.

The move paid off as Harrison slipped out of the spotlight for a while to protect himself, before making himself known again in a big way by hitting a three point shot from what can only be described as deep range at a near-impossible angle to give the Red Storm a 51-47 lead with 1:59 remaining. It was the Johnnies’ only three point shot made following a total of nine attempts.

Harrison then gave the Red Storm the lead for good with a jump shot with 0:29 remaining.

Harrison finished with 15 points, three assists and seven rebounds, while Sampson led the team with 16 points as well as eight rebounds and three steals. Chris Obekpa, who leads the nation in shot blocking, added three blocks and nine rebounds.

For Cincinnati, senior guard Cashmere Wright led the team with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while junior forward Titus Rubles added 14 points of his own. Rubles had an opportunity to win the game for the Bearcats with a jumper from inside the key at the 0:06 mark, but he missed the shot. The Red Storm’s defense limited junior guard Sean Kilpatrick, a notorious shooter, to 3-14 from the field and 0-5 from three-point range.

St. John’s guard Jamal Branch was sidelined for the contest after getting poked in the eye during practice on Friday. He had laser eye surgery prior to opening Big East play earlier in the week.