GAME NOTES: The Providence Friars are in for a major test, as they host the St. John's Red Storm in Big East Conference action on Tuesday night.
St. John's entered play on Tuesday with wins in four its last five games. The Red Storm's recent success has lifted them to 13-9 overall, although they are still near the bottom of the Big East standings at 3-6. They will face Creighton at Madison Square Garden next.
Providence edged out DePaul on Saturday, 77-72, for its sixth win in the last seven outings. The Friars have been one of the surprise teams in the new-look league, with an overall record of 16-6 and a conference mark of 6-3, which includes wins over Creighton and Xavier, the latter of which is their next opponent on the schedule.
These teams were entangled in a double-overtime thriller in the first meeting this season. Bryce Cotton (21 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) nearly notched a triple-double for Providence, which escaped with an 84-83 victory for its second straight against St. John's, which leads the all-time series by a 57-44 margin.
D'Angelo Harrison poured in a game-high 27 points, hitting 6-of-11 shots from 3-point range in the process, to lead St. John's to a 74-59 win over Marquette. The Red Storm outscored the Golden Eagles 21-6 off turnovers, while holding them to 34.8 percent shooting.
Strong defensive play has been St. John's calling card this season, as the Red Storm are allowing only 66.8 ppg and 40.4 percent shooting to their opponents. Chris Obekpa (3.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.5 bpg) leads the way on defense, ranking second in the nation in blocks for the Red Storm, who are the best shot- blocking team in the country (8.4 bpg). Obekpa was as good as ever against Marquette, swatting seven shots. Harrison (18.1 ppg) and JaKarr Sampson (12.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) carry most of the scoring responsibility, although Harrison is shooting below 40 percent from the field this season.
Cotton finished with 28 points and seven assists as the Friars shot at a 53.2 percent clip to get past DePaul. Providence doubled up the Blue Demons in points off turnovers (20-10), while holding a 36-26 scoring advantage in the paint.
Providence also defends well, surrendering only 66.8 ppg on 43.8 percent shooting to its opponents this season. However, the Friars have been scoring at a mediocre rate, connecting on just 41.8 percent of their shots from the floor, while ranking sixth in the Big East in scoring (72.1 ppg). Cotton (20.8 ppg, 5.8 apg) is anything but mediocre as a scorer, ranking behind only Creighton's Doug McDermott in the category among Big East players. He is aided by the frontcourt trio of LaDontae Henton (14 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Tyler Harris (12.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Kadeem Batts (12 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
The Dunkin' Donuts Center has been a real safe haven for Providence this season, with the Friars going 11-1 on their home floor. Expect that win total to grow on Tuesday against a St. John's team that has struggled with consistency.
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