For the first time since the first week of December, Steve Lavin and the senior-laden St. John's men's basketball team (11-6, 4-3 BIG EAST) return to venerable Carnesecca Arena for an on-campus clash with No. 25/rv Cincinnati (16-3, 3-3 BIG EAST).
St. John's run of eight-consecutive Top 25 opponents continues Saturday at 4 p.m.
Cincinnati is 16-3 this season and 3-3 on the road. The Bearcats, who have lost all three of their BIG EAST road games, are averaging 71.7 points per game. Strong defense has propelled UC to its strong start as the Bearcats are limiting opponents to just 56.7 points per game. Cincinnati's 56.2 points-per-game allowed as of Jan. 16 ranked as the fourth-lowest mark in the nation. Ball security has also been a priority for UC, which averages just 10.5 turnovers per contest. Cincinnati's 10.7 turnover average on Jan. 16 tied for the fourth lowest mark in the country. The Bearcats have struggled over the past two weeks, losing three of their last four with back-to-back road losses to Syracuse (Jan. 15) and Notre Dame (Jan. 19).
• The Bearcats own a 3-3 record in BIG EAST play, averaging just 65.2 points in conference games. In its losses to Villanova (Jan. 9), Syracuse, Notre Dame, UC has averaged just 52.0 points while its opponents have averaged 68.3 points. In those three losses, Cincinnati shot just 35.0 percent from the floor while its opponents shot 49.3 percent. The Bearcats were also outrebounded in each of the three losses. Dating back to the 2009-10 season, Cincinnati lost six straight BIG EAST road games. Its last conference road victory was on Feb. 13, 2010, when the Bearcats defeated Connecticut, 60-48, at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
• Cincinnati has relied on the trio of junior guard Dion Dixon, junior forward Yancy Gates and redshirt freshman guard Sean Kilpatrick. Dixon leads the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game (12.0 ppg in BIG EAST play). The Chicago native has been a steady shooter from the field (43.3 percent), 3-point range (.355, 27-of-76) and the free throw line (73.2 percent). Gates is the Bearcats main inside player and has averaged 11.5 points (10.0 ppg in BIG EAST) and a team-high 6.6 rebounds. The 6-9, 265-pound forward is shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and leads the team with 27 blocks. Kilpatrick is Cincinnati's top 3-point shooter and primary scorer of the bench. The White Plains, N.Y., native is leads all UC non-starters with 10.4 points per contest (12.0 ppg in BIG EAST) and is shooting 43.5 percent (30-of-69) from beyond the arc. Redshirt sophomore guard Cashmere Wright runs the point for the Bearcats and has averaged 9.0 points and a team-best 3.8 assists per game. Like Kilpatrick, senior guard Larry Davis is also a dangerous 3-point shooter off the bench, shooting a team-high 46.9 percent (23-of-49) from long range.
• St. John's senior class is 2-3 against Cincinnati and 2-1 against the Bearcats at home. In his only game against the Bearcats last season, Dwight Hardy scored 19 points. Paris Horne has averaged 10.0 points over five career games against UC to lead all fourth-year STJ seniors. Horne was at his best against the Bearcats during the 2008-09 season when he had 20-point performances on Jan. 22, 2009, and Feb. 11, 2009. Justin Burrell has averaged 9.0 points, 4.4 boards and 1.0 blocks against Cincinnati. D.J. Kennedy has averaged 6.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists against the Bearcats in his career.
• In 2009-10, Cincinnati went 19-16 overall and tied for 11th in the BIG EAST after going 7-11 in conference play. The Bearcats were 2-9 on the road and 2-7 in road conference contests. The Bearcats season ended in the second round of the NIT with an 81-66 loss to Dayton. UC returned 11 letterwinners from last season, including three starters.
• Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin is in his fifth season leading the Bearcats and his eighth season as a head coach. Cronin is 77-71 at Cincinnati and 146-95 overall. Cronin is 3-3 all-time against St. John's and has won just once (71-60, Jan. 22, 2009) before on the Red Storm's home court. Cronin has rebuilt Cincinnati into one of the country's improving programs, increasing UC's season win total in each of the previous four years.
• Also of note, David "Puff" Kennedy -- the father of St. John's D.J. Kennedy, like his son captured a state title at Pittsburgh's Schenley High School. Puff Kennedy then went on to play at the University of Cincinnati and is still listed among the Bearcats' all-time leaders in scoring and steals.