Preview: St. John's

Golden Eagles return home from three-game road trip for critical Big East affair.

Marquette Golden Eagles (15-10 overall, 6-6 Big East) vs. St. John's Red Storm (15-9 overall, 7-5 Big East)

Tuesday February 15, 8 p.m. CST

Bradley Center – Milwaukee, Wisc.

TV: ESPNU


The Marquette Golden Eagles return to the court on Tuesday night to take on the red-hot St. John's Red Storm.

St. John's enters the contest winning 4 of their last five games including games against Duke and Connecticut. The Red Storm defeated Cincinnati on the road to move to 7-5 in the Big East standings. Meanwhile, Marquette has dropped six of their last 10 games and currently sits at 6-6 in conference play.

With March quietly approaching and each team sitting on the bubble, Tuesday's contest figures to be an important one for both teams. Marquette needs to add some quality wins to their resume and can't afford to drop home games. St. John's has some marquee wins on their resume but has yet to notch one away from home.

With eight seniors in there 10-man rotation, it's a no brainer to say that St. John's will bring an experienced group to the Bradley Center. Leading the attack this year is six-foot-two guard Dwight Hardy. Hardy and Marquette guard Dwight Buycks were teammates at Indian Hills CC two seasons ago. Now they will be facing off in an important Big East tilt.

Hardy has been playing extremely well of late, averaging 24.8 ppg in his last five games. During that stretch he has hit 52 percent (15/29) of his attempts from downtown, well above his season average of 34 percent.

Hardy is joined in the starting backcourt by guard Paris Horne and swingman DJ Kennedy. The six-foot-three Horne is having a solid senior season but has seen his minutes and points per game drop in each of the last two seasons. As a sophomore, Horne poured in 14.6 ppg and as a junior he scored 9.2 ppg. This season he is averaging 7.8 ppg but has seen his field goal-and three-point percentages rise. It's a similar story for Kennedy whose 10.1 ppg average is down from 15.1 a year ago. Both players have shown the ability to take-over but the immense depth hasn't always given them the opportunity.

The Red Storm bring a pair of smaller guards named Malik off the bench. Malik Boothe and Malik Stith each can handle the ball and run the show for head coach Steve Lavin's club.

In the frontcourt, SJU has a deep and athletic bunch. Justin Brownlee has really emerged under Lavin this season. He has nearly doubled his scoring average from a year ago and has improved his rebounding and assists numbers. Freshman Dwayne Polee II joins Brownlee in the starting lineup. Polee is a pogo stick out on the court, using his leaping ability to finish above the rim and rebound the ball.

Justin Burrell and Sean Evans provide relief off the bench. Both these ‘bigs' can guard the post and finish inside offensively. Burrell is tied for second on the team in rebounding at five per game.

Offensively, you can expect the Red Storm to run the flex offense, with lots of ball movement and off the ball movement. They like to try and feed the ball into the post (specifically Brownlee) and try to get opportunities off of that. The offense is also designed to create mismatches on the inside due to switching defensively.

Defensively, SJU likes to extend pressure to try and force ball-handlers into mistakes. Their length and athleticism allow them to due a lot of switching without getting beat to badly.

Look for Marquette to stick to their usual game plan of trying to attack from multiple areas of the court. I wouldn't be surprised to see Chris Otule get some early touches inside to see if he can finish over the smaller Red Storm defenders. Otherwise, expect Marquette to continue to attack off the bounce and take open three-point shots when they are there.

ST. JOHN'S PROJECTED STARTERS

G –#12–Dwight Hardy (6'2" 196 lbs, Senior) --- (16.6 ppg, 3.1 rbg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg)

G –#23–Paris Horne (6'3" 189 lbs, Senior) --- (7.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 40% 3PT)

G/F –#1–DJ Kennedy (6'5" 214 lbs, Senior) --- (10.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 spg)

F –#0–Dwayne Polee II (6'7" 193 lbs, Freshman) --- (4.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg)

F –#32–Justin Brownlee (6'7" 219 lbs, Senior) --- (12.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)

RESERVES

F –#24–Justin Burrell (6'8" 244 lbs, Senior) --- (6.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 51% FG)

G –#3–Malik Boothe (5'9" 184 lbs, Senior) --- (4.6 ppg, 2.8 apg)

G –#31–Malik Stith (5'11" 184 lbs, Sophomore) --- (3.8 ppg, 1.1 apg)

F –#5–Sean Evans (6'8" 259 lbs, Senior) --- (2.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg)

F/C –#15–Dele Coker (6'10" 257 lbs, Senior) --- (1.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg)

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