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Columbia (7-5) vs. St. John's (8-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 28, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Barclays Center (18,103) -- Brooklyn, New York. Television: Fox Sports 1. Home Record: Columbia 5-1, St. John's 7-1. Away Record: Columbia 0-4, St. John's 0-0. Neutral Record: Columbia 2-0, St. John's 1-2. Conference Record: Columbia 0-0, St. John's 0-0. Series Record: St. John's leads, 17-7.
GAME NOTES: A pair of schools from the Big Apple will collide at the Barclays Center on Saturday when the Columbia Lions and St. John's Red Storm square off in the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival.
Columbia picked up its third win in four outings last Saturday as it coasted to an 82-59 decision over Fairleigh Dickinson at home. The win rose the Lions to a 7-5 standing on the season which includes a pair of hard-fought losses to Manhattan and Michigan State. Coach Kyle Smith's team has locked down on the defensive end of the floor to hold its opposition to only 60.5 points per game, which is the second best average among Ivy League schools. However, Columbia is ranked second to last in its conference in scoring at just 62.4 ppg.
The Red Storm fended off a tough Youngstown State squad last Saturday for a 96-87 triumph that lifted them to an 8-3 overall record. St. John's is on the verge of garnering national attention and needs to pick up more momentum heading into its Big East opener at Xavier on New Year's Eve. Coach Steve Lavin's team has outscored its opposition by an average of 10.5 points per game, which gives it the fourth best scoring margin in the Big East. All three of SJU's losses came to foes from major conferences and it has gone 7-0 versus mid-major programs to this point. The Red Storm's athleticism has been on display throughout their season as they lead the nation with 9.6 blocked shots per game.
This will be the 25th meeting in history between SJU and Columbia. The Red Storm own a 17-7 all-time series edge thanks to their 12 consecutive victories over the Lions dating back to the 1979-80 campaign. The Empire State school have not met since SJU's 79-66 win over Columbia at Carneseca Arena on Nov. 17, 2010.
The Lions' lack of offensive firepower was not evident in their recent win over FDU as they finished 23-of-46 from the floor, including a 10-of-23 clip from behind the 3-point line. Freshman forward Luke Petrasek poured in 20 points and rejected three shots to pace the team, while Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg netted 14 points apiece. Sophomore guard Grant Mullins continued his stellar campaign with 12 points and seven assists. The second-year Canadian import is posting a team-high 12.3 ppg, while Brian Barbour ranked third in the Ivy League with four assists per tilt.
SJU's national lead in blocked shots comes in large part due to the effort of 6-foot-9 sophomore center Chris Obekpa, who is rejecting 4.8 shots per game to pace all Division I players. Although Obekpa is not really a threat on the offensive end, the Red Storm have a few players who are very capable of lighting up the scoreboard. D'Angelo Harrison is the second-leading scorer in the Big East with 19.9 ppg and Jakarr Sampson contributes 12.8 points and 6.9 boards per game. Senior forward Orlando Sanchez has been on fire as of late with 45 points over his past four games. The Red Storm expect to have back their blue chip freshman guard Rysheed Jordan, who missed the previous game for personal reasons.
Columbia showed it can hang with the top competition earlier in the season when it visited East Lansing and could keep things close in Brooklyn with a similar performance. SJU likes to get out and run which often separates it from its weaker opponents. The Red Storm, who nearly took down Syracuse recently, should have no trouble coming out victorious with Jordan back in the fold.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: St. John's 77, Columbia 66
12/28 10:42:51 ET