(15) Marquette (22-7) at St. John's (16-13)
Saturday, March 9, 2 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Marquette 16-0, St. John's 12-4. Away Record: Marquette 4-6, St. John's 4-7. Neutral Record: Marquette 2-1, St. John's 0-2. Conference Record: Marquette 13-4, St. John's 8-9. Series Record: Marquette leads, 14-6.
GAME NOTES: Having recently completed an undefeated home slate, the 15th- ranked Marquette Golden Eagles have yet another accomplishment in front of them, as they tangle with the St. John's Red Storm on Saturday afternoon hoping to secure at least a share of the Big East Conference regular-season title.
Marquette brings a 22-7 overall record into this finale, and its 13-4 league ledger has it tied with both Georgetown and Louisville atop the Big East standings. A win today will assure the Golden Eagles of at least a share of the conference crown, and they'll also be trying to extend their current win streak to four games after they prevailing at Rutgers on Tuesday, 60-54.
St. John's is three games over .500 on the year at 16-13, and a win this afternoon would even its Big East record at 9-9. The Red Storm are an impressive 12-4 at home this season, but they've lost three straight and five of their last six regardless of the venue. Their most recent setback was a 66-40 decision suffered at Notre Dame on Tuesday night.
Marquette owns a 14-6 advantage in the all-time series with St. John's, which includes victories in 12 of the last 13 meetings.
Vander Blue poured in 22 points, and Junior Cadougan and Jamil Wilson chipped in 10 apiece, all of which was needed to help Marquette get past Rutgers on the road earlier this week. The Golden Eagles shot 45.8 percent from the field, but missed 12 of their 16 3-point attempts, while allowing the home team to connect on 46.0 percent of their total shots, including 4-of-9 from distance. A 12-4 edge in points from the foul line certainly helped MU, as did a second half in which the Golden Eagles connected on 60 percent of their field goal ties and the Scarlet Knights only 34.6 percent of theirs. Blue (14.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg) is one of only two double-digit scorers on the roster for Marquette at the moment, the other being sixth-man extraordinaire Davante Gardner (11.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg). As a team, the Golden Eagles are putting up 69.1 ppg in hitting 46.8 percent of their field goal attempts, although only 29.9 percent of their long-range launches have found the bottom of the net. Defensively, the club is yielding only 62.2 ppg, with foes shooting 40.5 percent from the floor, 32.3 percent from 3-point range, and the team owns a +4.0 rebounding margin.
St. John's led Notre Dame by four at the break (26-22), but the Red Storm would score only 14 more in the second half while the Fighting Irish would put up 44 in what wound up being a 26-point loss for the visitors to South Bend. St. Johns' shot a paltry 18.5 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, and the team missed all but one of its 13 3-point tries in the contest. JaKarr Sampson paced the Red Storm with 12 points, while Phil Greene IV tacked on 10 more, all in vain of course. With leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison (17.8 ppg) out due to suspension, Sampson is the team's only active double-digit scorer, but his 14.9 ppg alone isn't going to get the team into the win column with any degree of regularity. The Red Storm will be without the services of Sir'Dominic Pointer for this clash, as he too is serving a suspension. With a scoring average of only 65.7 ppg, St. John's can ill-afford not to have all of its top producers on the court, but perhaps it's time for some key reserves to show what they can do.
Despite the best effort of the Red Storm, this game is Marquette's to lose. Expect Blue and company to perhaps struggle at the outset, but to get into a rhythm at some point and claim a satisfying road win, allowing them to pick up a share of the league's regular-season title.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marquette 66, St. John's 57
03/09 10:33:44 ET