The Cincinnati Bearcat men's basketball squad (6-7,1-0) can already equal its BIG EAST win total from last year if it can go to Queens in New York City and beat the St. John's Red Storm. The Bearcats were 2-14 last year in league play. Mick Cronin's 2007-08 squad has already accomplished a couple of feats last year's team couldn't by winning a league game in regulation and winning a BIG EAST game on the road. Last season, both of Cincinnati's wins came after overtime sessions against West Virginia and Seton Hall, and both were played at Fifth Third Arena.
In their most recent game against Syracuse, St. John's started three freshmen led by 6' 8" forward/center Justin Burrell. Burrell recorded a double/double in St. John's 76-70 road loss to the Orange by scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. He is St. John's statistical leader in both categories averaging a team high 12 points and 7.8 rebounds a game.
Three other Red Storm players average double digit scoring. Closely behind Burrell is Anthony Mason Jr. with 11 points a game. The junior's father enjoyed a thirteen year NBA career including a stint with the New York Knicks in the 90's. Eugene Lawrence, a 6' 1" senior guard, averages 10.5 points a game while sharpshooting sophomore guard Larry Wright averages 10.3 points a contest and shoots close to 40% from behind the arc.
St. John's head man, Norm Roberts, is getting plenty of help from his freshman class. In addition to Burrell, D.J. Kennedy is a 6' 6" guard/forward seeing plenty of action. The versatile swingman has started all twelve games averaging a very respectable 9.8 points and game and is second on the team in rebounding with 7.4 a contest. Freshman Malik Booth at 5' 9" is providing depth in the backcourt averaging almost 15 minutes a game while fellow freshman, 6' 10" Dele Coker, is logging 10 minutes on the inside. Sean Evans, a 6' 8" freshman, started in St. John's frontcourt against Syracuse earlier this week, but 6' 11" junior Tomas Jasiulionis has started the majority of games in the pivot this season. St. John's has eight freshmen on its roster.
So far this season, St. John's has no signature wins while compiling its 6-6 record, but the Red Storm does have some surprising losses. Niagara beat St. John's 77-73 in Carnesecca Arena in mid-December while was followed a few days later by a 71-69 loss to Ohio University in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Red Storm has lost six of its last eight games with the only wins coming in close games against Hawaii (68-62) and Marist (62-59).
Saturday's game in Queens will be the first of two between the two BIG EAST schools and will be televised at 6 o'clock on ESPN Classic. The Red Storm will visit Cincinnati on Wednesday, February 13 for a rematch on ESPN2.
The Bearcats hope to keep their modest two game winning streak alive and stay undefeated in the BIG EAST Conference as they head to Jamaica, New York on Saturday to play the St. John's Red Storm.
BCI looks at the Bearcats next battle in the Big East.