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February 13, 2013

Preview: St. John's at USF

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After being granted an extra day of rest due to travel delays caused by Winter Storm Nemo, The USF Bulls (15-6, 5-4) return home to the Sun Dome to meet their current Big East equal St. Johns (11-10, 5-4) at 4:00 p.m.

Both teams are looking to catch DePaul (7-4) in the Big East standings. The Bulls are coming off two blowout road wins against Pittsburgh and Providence, while the Red Storm hope that last weekend's overtime win over Georgetown will be the start of a lengthy win streak for them. This is the only time these two squads will meet this season.

Three Keys to the Game

  1. USF must utilize its top-25 scoring offense and make the most of its shot opportunities against a St. John's defense that is ranked 7th in the nation in blocked shots per game.
  2. Score when the clock isn't ticking - The Red Storm don't allow their opponents to go to the foul line often, so it's important that the Bulls improve on their 69 percent free-throw percentage to score as many points as possible.
  3. Consistency. The Bulls do a lot of things right, and that is reflected both statistically and in the win-loss column. The team needs to continue to build on the momentum gained from their latest wins and keeping it rolling throughout their final seven games.

The Matchup

St. John's struggled significantly with its out-of-conference play this season, making the team's record appear worse than the team itself actually is. However, two of those six non-conference losses came against then-No. 4 Duke and then-No. 14 UCLA, the latter of which was lost by one point in overtime. Though the squad tends to have trouble with getting the offense to click, they play smart basketball: St. John's is ranked 29th in turnovers per game and is in the top 20 percent for fewest personal fouls per game.

USF comes in with a much better out-of-conference record, but is even with St. John's in the area that matters most to those who hand out NCAA Tournament invitations: Big East record. The Bulls are not nearly as disciplined as the Red Storm are, and they allow opponents to get to the line often. However, with an average of 72.8 points and 11.8 steals per game, USF has the ability to overcome most obstacles by easily putting points on the board every night.

Players to Watch

6-foot-2 guard Inga Orekhova is coming off of an outstanding game against Providence, where she scored 21 points and played 28 minutes to help her team to an 82-54 win. The junior guard also went 4-for-4 at the line and 5-for-8 in three-point shots. Her productivity, particularly at the three-point line, paired with the reliability of sisters Andrell and Andrea Smith make USF an offensive powerhouse that is very difficult for opponents to contain.

There are two players on the Red Storm that dominate the team's stats: junior guards Shenneika Smith and Nadirah McKenith. Those there are six inches between the two, together they lead the team in categories such as points per game (Smith, 63rd in the nation, 17.2 average), assists per game (McKenith, 30th in the nation, 5.7 average), and the team's biggest strength in blocked shots per game (Smith, 18th in the nation, 2.47 average). Where one player struggles the other seems to pick up the slack, which makes the duo a threat each game.



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