St. John's trying to weather storms

Heading into another tough week of games, the Red Storm are at least coming off a win and playing with a little bit of confidence. That's good, because no team needed it more. It's been a disaster of a year for the program, part of which was for expected reasons and other parts that have been surprising.

Everyone knew that the team would be young and inexperienced. Few thought it would be quite so thin, but the failure of a pair of top signees to gain admission and some unexpected transfers have left this a seven-man squad.

It's also a team without a head coach for all intents and purposes. Steve Lavin is recovering from surgery for prostate cancer and hasn't been on the bench for games, leaving things in the hands of associate head coach Mike Dunlap. Though this isn't a huge surprise for anyone who knows the toll that fighting cancer can take, it was not what Lavin had originally planned. Doctor's orders, and his own body, forced him to take on less of a gameday role than he would like.

It's taken a long time to come together, but the victory over Cincinnati, along with a strong showing in an earlier home loss to Louisville, had acting coach Mike Dunlap confident that the team is making progress, at least on one end of the court.

"Louisville had 26 percent at half when we came into their house. They're hot and they shot 26 percent, so some of it had to be us," Dunlap said. "I think defensively (against Cincinnati) our guys were right on point. We've got a lot to learn. We know where we're at."

Even with what's left to learn, the Red Storm have at least shown that they can be dangerous. That's good, because this is the Big East and it's not like the games are getting any easier.

NOTES, QUOTES Lavin may not return to bench this year

--Steve Lavin's status for the rest of the season is still uncertain. The Red Storm coach came back in November after undergoing surgery for his prostate cancer, but quickly found that the games were too much for his body to handle. It's possible that he won't return to the bench until the 2012-13 season.

--Moe Harkless was the star of the win over Cincinnati, getting the game-winning tip-in at the buzzer. Harkless is no stranger to piling up big numbers, however. His 14 points and 14 rebounds marked his fifth double-double of the season.

--St. John's had perhaps its best defensive effort of the season against Cincinnati, holding the Bearcats to 26.3 percent shooting from the floor. The Red Storm held Dion Dixon and Jaquon Parker scoreless, and to a combined 0-15 from the field.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4-8 -- St. John's performance from three-point range in the first half against Cincinnati. It came after the Red Storm made just one of its seven attempts before the break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We tried to steal the ball and let their best player turn the corner, so poetic justice. I would say on the tip-in, the basketball gods were giving the team that deserved to win today the victory." -- Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told the Cincinnati Enquirer, on the play that gave St. John's the 57-55 victory.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL THIS WEEK'S GAMES: --at Marquette, Jan. 11

KEY MATCHUPS: The Golden Eagles are tough, but started 1-2 in the Big East and could have been 0-3 had a Villanova comeback not fallen short. Marquette has a strong backcourt but is thin in the paint and has trouble sustaining offensive runs, which leaves it vulnerable to the St. John's defense. --vs. Georgetown, Jan. 15

KEY MATCHUPS: Georgetown wasn't great defensively this past week, but has been excellent for most of the season and will likely have the problems ironed out in time for tipoff. It's a game not to be missed between two of the original Big East schools that always seem to bring out the best in each other.

FUTURES MARKET: The hits just keep on coming for the Red Storm, which saw Darrick Wood de-commit last week. The decision by the Brighton Academy guard leaves St. John's without a commitment for the 2012 recruiting class.

PLAYER NOTES

--Sir'Dominic Pointer got a trip back home when the Red Storm took on Cincinnati on Jan. 7. Though he scored just two points, he pulled down seven rebounds and helped stifle the Bearcat offense.

--Amir Garrett continues to grow into his role in the rotation since joining the team for the second semester. He had eight points off the bench against Cincinnati, and knocked down his first career three-pointer in the process.

--D'Angelo Harrison enters the week as the top-scoring freshman in the Big East. He led the team in scoring again against Cincinnati, with 18 points and seven rebounds.


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