St. John's Preview

St. John's University already could be termed a giant-killer after knocking off then No. 7 Notre Dame recently at Madison Square Garden and past performances, but a Red Storm victory this weekend would be akin to David's against Goliath.

St. John's (10-4 overall, 1-1 in the Big East) faces No. 1 Pittsburgh (14-0, 2-0) Sunday at noon at the Petersen Events Center.

During head coach Norm Roberts' tenure, the Red Storm has knocked off six top-25 teams. The Panthers are in that group twice. All six wins were at Madison Square Garden, but St. John's likely will have to face a hostile crowd, as well as a talented Pitt team, at the Pete.

"We know they have a good team, and they're playing really well right now,'' Pitt senior forward Sam Young said. "But we're well-rested after another week between games, and we've been playing real well, too. So, we're not going to overlook them, but we're at home and will have our fans behind us.''

Sophomore D.J. Kennedy, a former teammate with Pitt sophomore DeJuan Blair at Schenley High School, returns to his hometown as the Red Storm's leading scorer. He recorded his fourth double-double with 20 points and 10 boards, to go along with four assists, in the Notre Dame win. Kennedy averages 13 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He has reached double figures in scoring in nine of 14 games this season and returns for his first college game in his hometown.

"We know a lot about their players, because we have recruited a lot of them,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "D.J. Kennedy, we're especially familiar with him, as a local player. And we've been watching him play for a long time. So, we know a lot about St. John's and expect them to be a tough opponent.''

Sophomore Paris Horne has been a solid defensive player from the outset for the Red Storm and averages 13.5 points in his past 11 games, while classmate Sean Evans tallies 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds. Sophomore forward Justin Burrell is at 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, while sophomore center Dele Coker is a defensive presence inside at 6-foot-10.

The point guard is Malik Boothe, but he's coming off a thumb injury that cost him three games. He averages 8.4 points and five rebounds per game. Rookie guard Quincy Roberts has played a key reserve roll, but averaged 9.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in starting assignments for Boothe. In his last four games, Rob Thomas is averaging 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 59.3 percent from the floor.

St. John's leads the all-time series with Pitt, 33-18, and has won two of the last five meetings with the Panthers, with both victories coming at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm is looking for its first victory at the Petersen Events Center, with its last win in Pittsburgh coming Feb. 6, 1999. The 88-60 decision was at Pitt's Fitzgerald Fieldhouse.

St. John's has five all-time victories against the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, making the Red Storm the 12th-most successful program against top-ranked foes. Its last win win against a No. 1 team was Jan. 26, 1985, when Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca's No. 2 Redmen edged top-ranked Georgetown and Hall of Fame coach John Thompson, 66-65, at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md.

Along with a win against the Fighting Irish Jan. 3, Roberts has guided St. John's to upset victories against No. 22 Notre Dame during the 2006-07 season (Jan. 23, 71-68), No. 9 Pitt (Jan. 21, 55-50) and No. 17 Louisville (Jan. 17, 68-56) in 2005-06, and No. 21 Pitt (Jan. 18, 65-62) and No. 17 North Carolina State (Dec. 30, 63-45) in 2004-05. The Red Storm has beaten at least one Top-25 team in four of the last five years under Roberts.

St. John's is 1-2 away from home during the 2008-09 season, having defeated Cornell, 86-75, and losing, 82-70, to Boston College in the NIT Season Tip-Off, both at B.C.'s Conte Forum. The Red Storm also fell at Providence in its conference-opener, 75-54, Jan. 31.

Pitt's next game is against South Florida Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Pete. St. John's returns to The Garden to take on a third-straight ranked opponent when No. 5 Connecticut visits Thursday at 7 p.m. in an ESPN national telecast.

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