St. John’s gets breather from ranked foes

The St. John’s men’s basketball team will get a brief break from ranked Big East opponents when they take on Cincinnati on Thursday at Carnesecca Arena, the first of two meetings this season.

Cincinnati won six of its first seven games this season and started 10-3 before losing four straight games, including its first three in conference play. After beating Rutgers and DePaul, the Bearcats lost its most recent game 72-63 on the road at Providence on Monday night.

The Bearcats currently stand at 12-7 (2-4).

Point guard Deonta Vaughn leads a Cincinnati offense ranked 12th in the Big East in scoring with 70.1 points per game. He averages 15.5 points per game as the team’s leading scorer and will be the player the Red Storm must stop in order to have defensive success.

The Red Storm will not have to contain a player of Hasheem Thabeet or Luke Harangody’s caliber in the paint, but they will be squaring off against 6-9, 255-pound freshman forward Yancy Gates. Gates is Cincinnati’s leading rebounder with 6.1 per game and established himself as a dominating post player Monday night against Providence. Gates had 14 points on 6-17 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds off the bench.

Gates joins Connecticut’s Kemba Walker, Georgetown’s Greg Monroe, and Louisville’s Samardo Samuels among the ?ber-talented freshmen the Big East has seen this season.

Also look for forward Mike Williams to make an impact offensively. Against Providence on Monday, Williams scored a career-high 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

Williams averages 14.4 points per game in conference play this season, up from his regular 9.8 points per game for the season, and that is something head coach Norm Roberts has to take into account going into this game.

St. John’s will likely be without point guard Malik Boothe once again, meaning a rotation of Quincy Roberts, TyShwan Edmondson, D.J. Kennedy and Paris Horne will man the point for the Red Storm.

According to a report, Boothe is having pins removed following his surgery, which repaired torn thumb ligaments suffered in the Aeropostale Holiday Festival against Marist. He will be re-evaluated later in the week.

The Red Storm will enter the game losers of three straight, the most recent a 76-57 road loss to Villanova on Sunday.

Expect the Red Storm to get back to their early season play of fast transition basketball as a result of forced turnovers, especially after having three recovery days in between games.

Cincinnati ranks near the bottom of the conference in turnover margin (14th) and blocked shots (11th). The Red Storm should also focus on getting the ball in the paint and testing Gates.