College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 10, 2011
It's a great thing to play your home games at storied Madison Square Garden, especially when you have a coach like Steve Lavin running the show for the St. John's Red Storm. The coach, who came out of semi-retirement this season to coach the Red Storm after departing as UCLA's head coach in 2003, has St. John's scaring the daylights out of every opponent who comes to the Bag Apple.
On Thursday night, it was Connecticut's turn to be taken out to the woodshed for an old-fashioned whipping, the fourth time this season that St. John's has played rude host to a highly-ranked team. Senior guard Dwight Hardy scored a career-high 33 points for St. John's, topping the 32 he put up in his last game, a 66-59 loss at UCLA on Saturday.
Hardy had everything going, hitting 10 of 17 shots, going 5-for-8 from beyond the arc and hitting all eight of his free throws. St. John's blew open a close game with a dominant second half for an 89-72 thumping, outscoring the Huskies by 13 points in the second half.
Senior swingman, DJ Kennedy, chipped in with 20 points and 11 boards for his second double-double of the season. In recent weeks, St. John's has taken the measure of Georgetown, Notre Dame and Duke, all wins at the Garden, and are creeping up the Big East standings. At 6-5, they are now in a five-way tie with UConn, Marquette, Cincinnati and West Virginia and have seven games remaining before the Big East Tournament, which will be played on their home court.
With many predicting nine teams to come out of the conference for the Big Dance, don't be surprised if St. John's is one of them.
NOTABLE: Don't count the Michigan State Spartans out just yet. After losing five of their last six and dropping out of the Top 25, coach Tom Izzo's team regrouped at home for a 75-57 pounding of Penn State, getting a triple-double out of junior forward Dramon Green, who scored 15 points, grabbed 14 board and dished 10 assists. The Spartans recovered to 6-6 in the conference, but face a tough test at #1 Ohio State on Tuesday of next week.
It will be interesting to watch how the Spartans fare in the final three weeks of the Big Ten regular season. A permanent feature of the NCAA tournament, Michigan State is currently in bubble-land and needs to finish the season at least with a .500 record and put up a good show in the conference tournament to be considered viable for a taste of March Madness.