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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Previewing the St. John's Lady Red Storm

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SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

-We look at Lady Cards next opponent...St. John

-Our questionable analysis of the game...

-Irish vs. Huskies today in BIG EAST WBB

-Who's the "bowlmeister?"

The University of Louisville women's basketball team faces St. John's Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in New York. Louisville's Bria Smith gets a homecoming of sorts, returning to the New York area where she played her high school basketball at Christ the King High School. The Cards will need to bring more than Bria, though, if they hope to defeat a dangerous Lady Red Storm team that is 8-1 when they play in the cozy confines of Carnesecca Arena in Queens.

St. John is 9-6 on the season, 1-1 in BIG EAST play and comes into the game off a win over Providence 57-41. They've lost to St. Bonaventure, Hofstra, Iowa, DePaul, Baylor and Harvard. Key wins include Memphis and Providence.

The Red Storm has recently been going with a starting lineup of Nadirah McKenith, Shenneika Smith, and Eugenia McPherson at guards and Amber Thompson with Da'Shena Stevens in the paint. 

-McKenith, a 5'7" junior, is the point and according to head coach Kim Barnes Arico, one of the best in the BIG EAST. Hobbled early in the season with a sprained right knee, McKenith appears to be back at full strength and averages 11.9 a game for the Red Storm. She had 10 points against Louisville last year in the Cards 84-73 win in the KFC YUM! Center. 

-McPherson is the leading scorer for St. John's, averaging 14.3 p.p.g. The 5'8" junior is also the main 3-point threat for Barnes, with 19-46 results for the season. She tallied 15 points against the Cards last year and has led the Johnnies in scoring nine times this year, including 23 points against #1 Baylor.

-Smith is second in scoring for the Lady Red Storm with 12.5 a game and also the leading rebounder with 7.6 grabs a game. The 6'1" junior torched the Lady Cards for 23 points last year and will pose match up problems again this year for Jeff Walz's squad.

-Thompson is the newcomer to the St John's mix, a 6'2 freshman that is second in rebounding for the season with 7.4 per game. She also averages 8.6 p.p.g. and will give the Lady Cards fits in the paint if left unattended.

-Stevens may be the best known Red Storm player, the 6'1" senior has made life miserable for UofL all four years of her career. She's only averaging 6.8 points this year, but had 11 points in 20 minutes against Louisville last year before foul trouble sent her to the bench. She sat out the first ten games of the season, rehabbing a off-season injury, but is back now and a definite inside threat for St. John's.

The Red Storm also bring 5'9" sophomore guard Keylantra Langley and 6'2" red shirt sophomore forward/center Mary Nwachukwu off the bench for minutes. Former Louisville Manual star Zakiyyah Shahid-Martin is on the St. John's roster but sees only about five minutes a game in a reserve role.

St. John's averages 62.2 points a game an allows 55.7. They grab 38.5 rebounds a contest and allow 35.7. The Johnnies turn the ball over an average of 21.9 a game and force 25.3 miscues. They pilfer 14.2 steals against the competition and are stripped 11.1 times a game.

Kim can coach
St. John is coached by Kim Barnes Arico. She's in her tenth year as the Lady Red Storm skipper an has compiled a 161-130 record at the program. She's led the team to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and the Red Storm were ranked in the AP Top 25 most of the season last year, climbing as high as 17th.

Jeff Walz is 4-1 against St. John's lifetime, the loss coming during the Cards 2009-10 season when an undermanned Lady Cards squad travelled to Queens and got romped 91-56, part of a five game losing streak that the team suffered during that difficult season. Louisville leads the lifetime series 6-2.

SONJA SEES IT...

"I'm not usually a glass half empty type of person but this one Sunday really scares me. Whereas Louisville started the season at full strength and has been decimated by injuries, St. John's started the year with injuries and is now back to full strength. They've got multiple scoring options, they're strong inside and have one of the best back courts the Cards will face this year. They play well at home and, hopefully, the influx of Bria Smith fans will help offset the home court advantage. Although the Red Storm don't bring in big numbers for home contests, this one should be pretty well attended on Sunday and with Louisville's propensity for getting off to slow starts, I worry that the Cards may dig themselves a big enough hole early against this veteran and experienced team that they can't get out of. If Louisville wins, it won't be by much. Both of Louisville's losses have come on the road this year."

PAUL COUNTERS...

"For all the talent that exists on the Lady Red Storm squad, they still don't have a Shoni. They'll try to stop her, which should create opportunities for Bria, Becky and the "bigs" to benefit. Jeff Walz excels at finding a key player to shut down in games...they stifled Plouffe earlier this week. The problem is, St. John's has any of four players who can take it to you effectively. I look for defense to go out the window in this one and expect to see a high scoring, up and down the court affair. Louisville gets the advantage in this type of contest, their depth and transition quickness should be the deciding factor in a Cardinal win. It won't come easy, and as Sonja said, the Lady Cards simply can't sleep through the first few minutes of either half against St. John."
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A good Saturday match up on the tube today when UConn and Notre Dame go to war in WBB in South Bend. #2 vs. #3. Diggins vs. Hartley. Geno vs. Muffett. Irish vs. Huskies. Should be a fun one to watch. We'll go with home court advantage here and take UND. That ought to fire up all of our Connecticut readers....

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Paul is leading in a Bowl Game contest he's in at a local establishment. After last year's horrific prediction performance, this borders on a minor miracle...but the "big guy" is 27-5 so far with just three left. His losses have been Utah State, Louisville, Air Force, UCLA and Va Tech. He can finish no worse than second, and his final three picks are Pitt., N. Illinois and LSU. A nice first place monetary award is in the offing. Thanks to Bobby Petrino last night for giving him a two game lead on the pack and go Panthers, N. Ill. and LSU!
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