The Marquette Golden Eagles head to the Big Apple on Saturday, January 20 for a battle with the St. John’s Red Storm.
St. John’s has thrived on home court this season to the tune of a 8-1 record, while Maquette’s efforts have fallen short on the road, only securing one win in four attempts.
Tyler Kolek and the Golden Eagles bounced back in a big way on Monday with a strong win over Villanova (87-84), with Kolek recording his third double-double of the season. His backcourt mate Kam Jones added 22 points, while Oso Ighodaro contributed 19 of his own en route to the victory.
Meanwhile in Queens, the Red Storm are hoping for the help of some home cooking after suffering back-to-back losses on the road to Creighton (66-65) and Seton Hall (80-65). Rick Pitino’s bench was one man short against the Pirates, as the team’s third-leading scorer Jordan Dingle was sidelined with an illness.
His status remains questionable ahead of Saturday’s game.
Marquette’s guard depth will also be put to the test this weekend. Chase Ross and Sean Jones are unavailable after both suffered injuries during the team’s 69-62 loss to Butler. Ross is projected to return in early February, while Jones’ sophomore season is derailed entirely with a torn ACL. The pair combined to average over 12 PPG off the bench this season.
The starting five will be relied upon heavily to keep the Golden Eagles’ fast-paced offense afloat. Shaka Smart kept his bench tight during the last game against the Wildcats, only playing three reserves for a combined 37 minutes. Now with five days of rest, the trio of Kolek, Jones, and Ighodaro will likely stay on the floor for the majority of this one.
Smart’s team thrives on using ball movement to create mismatches and find open shooters - but they need to make those open looks. Kolek leads the Big East with 6.6 APG and will need Jones and fellow sharp-shooter David Joplin to capitalize on any clearings in the Red Storm defense.
Meanwhile across the scorers table, the winning recipe for St. John’s will start with the battle above the rim. The team enters this game as the fourth-best offensive rebounding team in the nation (13.3 ORPG) and armed with the Big East’s leader on the glass, senior center Joel Soriano (9.3 RPG).
Soriano averaged 16 PPG while corralling 11.7 RPG in his three matchups with Marquette last season. Despite his efforts, St. John’s finished the season without a win against the Golden Eagles.
However, this season marks a new era of basketball for the Johnnies.
The slate was wiped fairly clean when Rick Pitino made the move from Iona, inking a six-year deal over the summer to lead this program. Only two players returned from last season with ten incoming transfers and two freshmen filling out the roster.
The guard duo of Daniss Jenkins and RJ Luis Jr. both followed Pitino on his journey across New York. Jenkins has started every game for the Red Storm this season and averaged 13.1 PPG and 5.9 APG, good enough for third-best in the conference. Luis missed some time earlier in the season with an injury but has shown promising signs during his time on the floor, contributing 9.4 PPG.
The pair will be relied on to provide a lift for the team’s high-scoring offense with Jordan Dingle still questionable. After consecutive 65-point performances, this roster needs to find a way to keep up with Marquette on the scoreboard.
Action tips off on Saturday, January, 20 at 12:00 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York, broadcast on FOX.