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Game #15: St. John’s at Pittsburgh Panthers – Pregame Media

January 11, 2009

The big question for St. John’s: will point guard Malik Boothe play?

From the NY Post:

Roberts is hoping to get some minutes out of point guard Malik Boothe who underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left thumb on Dec. 21. Roberts said Boothe would not start but he’s hoping to get him some spot duty.

HOWEVER:

From the NY Daily News:

However, the Johnnies won’t get help from starting point guard Malik Boothe, who is coming off hand surgery. Roberts said he is not yet ready to play in games, but should in the next week.

Which writer is right? At his best, Malik Boothe can make the difference between a close contest and a turnover-filled smashing at the hands of the Pitt Panthers.


The Panthers, are focused for today’s game:

Since the Associated Press Top 25 was released Monday, the Pitt players have displayed a healthy mixture of pride, humility and focus.

“We know it’s out there,” senior forward Tyrell Biggs said. “But we’ve got a lot more work to do. Our goals aren’t finished yet. It’s early.”

Amazingly, Pitt is only the second program to sit atop the AP regular-season Top 25 men’s basketball poll as a Big East school in the past 19 years. The other is Connecticut, which was No. 1 for 21 different regular-season polls in 1998-99, 2003-04 and 2005-06.

St. John’s is focused as well. NY Post:

Following his team’s 71-65 upset of Notre Dame at the Garden last weekend, Roberts’ task was to make sure his players didn’t come down with a collective case of “Big Head Syndrome.”

Boston College took care of that problem. After pulling a shocking upset of North Carolina, the Eagles got flipped by Harvard.

“We saw that,” forward D.J. Kennedy said. “Coach tells us all the time that anyone can beat anyone, but when you see it happen to another team, it’s right there. You know it’s true.”

NY Daily News:

“Now they are No. 1 and trying to hang on to it,” Kennedy said. “There’s a lot of pressure that comes with being No. 1. And we come in feeling good and with nothing to lose. No one is giving us a chance in this, but no one gave us a chance last weekend.”

St. John’s (10-4) got a taste of what it’s like to send a shiver through the college basketball world when it defeated then-No. 7 Notre Dame, 71-65, last Saturday at the Garden. The Johnnies got that win by doing two things that they hadn’t: play with intensity for the entire game and not collapse in the face of adversity. When the Irish led big early, the Red Storm mounted a comeback. When its lead was threatened, St. John’s beat them back.

“We showed them how to win,” Johnnies coach Norm Roberts said. “I can’t tell you if the light went on for them. We’re preaching to them to stay focused and intense. We want them to stay confident.”

I suppose I could say something about it taking them this long to “learn how to win,” and stay focused… more on that from the New York Times:

The Red Storm underwent a bit of an attitude adjustment after a 21-point loss to Providence in its Big East opener on Dec. 31. The players said a heightened dedication in practices and the subsequent, and, admittedly, uncharacteristic effort against Notre Dame proved rewarding….

“We learned a lot about playing 40 minutes,” the sophomore forward Sean Evans said. “We have to bring this mind-set to every game.”

Evans spoke about how much more focused he and his teammates were in practice. The sophomore forward Justin Burrell said that the team was working harder in practice than he could remember, and that there was none of the bickering or distracting side conversations that had been too prevalent in the past. And the sophomore swingman D. J. Kennedy confirmed that that had been the way the team had operated since the Providence loss. Even Roberts was willing to acknowledge a rise in intensity, though he attributed it to preparing for a hard-nosed team like Pittsburgh (14-0, 2-0).

“We’ve emphasized being much more physical in practice,” Roberts said.

He showed his team on film things it did against Notre Dame that it needed to continue doing. Those things have roots in effort and determination like rebounding with both hands and playing tough on-ball defense; the Red Storm held Notre Dame to four 3-pointers compared with its average of 9.3 a game. It also includes executing the offense with patience to get the ball inside and attacking the basket in transition rather than settling for jump shots.

Again, why it takes so long to get a team to play the right way… but if they can keep it up, it will be water under the bridge.


Also:

DJ Kennedy’s coming home to play in front of friends and family.

Huge Pitt stop for St. John’s, from the NBE Basketball report.

The Vegas point spread is 19.5 points in favor of Pittsburgh..

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