GAME NOTES: A pair of six-win teams will square off at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday night, as the St. John's Red Storm play host to the San Francisco Dons.
USF has played each of its last four games at home, going 3-1 in that stretch. The Dons most recently came off a two-week break on Dec. 14 but showed very little rust in dismantling Nicholls State, 77-48, to improve to 6-4 on the season.
St. John's ran into a buzz saw its last time out against nationally-ranked and undefeated Syracuse, fighting hard before dropping the 68-63 decision. The setback derailed the Red Storm's outstanding play of late, as they had been winners of six of their previous seven games, although they are still an impressive 6-3 on the campaign.
St. John's has a 5-2 handle on the all-time series, but USF defeated the Red Storm last December in San Francisco, 81-65.
The Dons' latest contest was never in doubt, as they shot a sizzling 57.5 percent from the field, while holding Nicholls State to only 32.1 percent on their way to the 29-point victory. They also had a solid day at the free-throw line (23-of-34) and held a comfortable 35-27 edge in the rebounding battle. Cole Dickerson paced the balanced effort with 20 points, doing so on 7-of-10 from the field while also corralling a team-high eight rebounds. Tim Derksen scored 15 points, Mark Tollefsen netted 12 points and Avry Holmes added 10 points and four assists.
Scoring has not been an issue for USF this season, as it makes good on 49.7 percent of its field goal tries for 84.4 points per game, but its opponents are nearly able to keep up on the other end (.472, 77.0 ppg). Dickerson (15.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg) shoots an impressive 52.8 percent from the field but struggles at the foul line (.561). Kruize Pinkins (12.8 ppg, 6.4 ppg) is a weapon off the bench, Mark Tollefsen brings 12.3 points per game to the table, and Derksen, Holms, and Matt Glover all score between 9.5 and 9.6 points per game.
Although St. John's found itself down by 12 points at the half against Syracuse on Sunday afternoon, it climbed all the way back to take a two-point lead with under six minutes to play on an Orlando Sanchez layup, but from there it fell victim to a quick 6-0 Orange run and it never recovered from there. It had a difficult time conquering Syracuse's elite defensive pressure as it shot just 37.5 percent from the field, including a lowly 1-of-15 from 3- point range. D'Angelo Harrison scored 21 points in the setback thanks largely to a strong 8-of-10 showing from the free-throw line. Rysheed Jordan was also outstanding from the stripe (9-of-9) en route to 13 points, while JaKarr Sampson added 12 points.
On the season, the Red Storm has made a strong impression all over the court, as they boast positive margins in terms of scoring (+9.1), rebounding (+2.3) and turnovers (+2.0) while outshooting their opponents from the field, 45.3 percent to 38 percent. Harrison (19.1 ppg) is the go-to scoring option, although his success is volume-driven considering he's shooting just 38.3 percent from the field. Sampson (12.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is a solid cog in the frontcourt, while Phil Greene IV brings 9.4 points per game to the table.
Although USF has played well this season, traveling cross-country for this matchup will be no easy task, especially facing off against a well-rounded Red Storm team whose only home loss this season came against the No. 2 team in the country.
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