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January 5, 2013

Solitary shooter

Like a thief in the night D'Angelo Harrison slipped his St. John's Red Storm out of Cincinnati with another startling victory, 53-52.

"Coach (Lavin) could call anybody's number," said Harrison. "He called my number and I delivered."

In all Harrison finished with 13 points after the break. Cincinnati had one answer for the conference's leading scorer and he was Bearcat starter Cashmere Wright.

For the fifth time in his stellar career Cashmere dumped in 20+ points in a Big East game.

Nearly legendary

Comfortable senior guard Cashmere Wright lifted the Bearcats all the way off the floor, finishing the dead lift in the final minute.

Senior JaQuon Parker finished with 3 points, Sean Kilpatrick with just 7 (3-14 FG).

It was Parker's lowest total since Thanksgiving and Kilpatrick's most feeble of the season by 6 points.

Though Cincinnati trailed by as many as 12 points (36-24) Cash's last gasp summoned the team to life.

Wright's three-pointer brought a frustrated Bearcat unit back to within five points. His triple seconds later enflamed the arena in excitement.

Now the home team trailed narrowly, 48-46. A former blowout was within reach. Without the luxury of stored timeouts St. John's Coach Lavin charged his players with enduring the roar.

Wright's layup in the belly of shotblocker Christopher Obekpa displaced one hair from Coach Lavin's immaculate mane and frightened the visitors. Like they did a year earlier St. John's called upon D'Angelo Harrison to win the game in Fifth Third Arena.

Last winter St. John's last second score by Mo Harkless ended a Bearcat 7-game winning streak. You might forget that St. John's requested that Harrison take the final shot. His baseline floater initiated the play and forced an awkward rotation by UC, which in turn gave Harkless a clear rebounding lane.

Saturday Harrison created the final score again. This time full credit goes to the tough wunderkind.

Coming out of the timeout the 6'3" guard made a simple move to the elbow, elevated, and scored. St. John's led 53-52 with 29 seconds left. Only a Rubles' midrange miss separated Harrison's jumper from the final horn.

"My teammates believed in me," said Harrison. "Coach called a great play. I got the switch I wanted and attacked his feet."

As he walked towards the bench Harrison tucked his chin in and powerfully praised himself. A teammate walked up to give him a High-five and Harrison simply ignored the gesture. It was a proud individual moment for a proud Texan.

"I got a clean look and buried it."

D'Angelo Harrison is a younger Ben Gordon. Considered a mite short for a future at shooting guard, Harrison scores all over the floor and frightens entire teams with his artful shots.

Like Gordon D'Angelo arches his back proudly thrusting his chest forward as he walks up the floor. Nothing and no one is going to deter him from dumping the nightly 22.1 through the nets.

Stifled through the first 20, Harrison capitalized on a wilting Bearcat psyche. A big part of the second half 10-0 run by St. John's was Harrison's improved accuracy.

St. John's hopped off the floor ecstatic to be leading 36-24 with 14:38 left in the game.

Harrison has a leaner, a fadeway, and a runner in his arsenal. Any one of these shots can take a decade of high level basketball to develop and Harrison has all three already.

Oddly once Harrison started to score his teammates willfully faded from the picture.

Finding that third scorer

As the veterans JaQuon Parker, Sean Kilpatrick, and Cashmere Wright are expected to lead the scoring tally every night. Most nights they live up to this daunting responsibility. If/when they don't the burden falls to one of the younger teammates like Titus Rubles, Jermaine Sanders, or Shaq Thomas.

Unfortunately, Titus is the only guy filling this vacancy and he spent five games climbing back from the relevance he built in November.

Facing St. John's Titus scored 14 points, many of them late with the game in the balance. If you set the scoring of Rubles and Wright aside the remaining Bearcats shot 16.6% from the field. Unacceptable.

Shaq does not even look for his shot. Against Marshall the elegant wing briefly asserted himself. Otherwise he merely accepts a pass and pays it forward never looking to attack.

Despite heavy minutes against Pittsburgh, Jermaine Sanders still hasn't adapted to Big East Conference defense.

More confident with the ball that Shaquille Thomas, Sanders started more promisingly Saturday. He managed a tough layup in the opening half Saturday afternoon.

To begin his day he offered a three-pointer from the corner. It did not fall, but he pumped home a layup against a power forward next time down.

With 3:34 Sanders slashed along the baseline and offered a left-handed layup in traffic. It nearly fell. He finished with 2 points in 11 minutes.

"It was a lot of mental things," said Cashmere Wright. "We just let mental things bring our play down. We just them outplay us. They came into our gym and outplay us."

Ge'Lawn Guyn was not available for the game Saturday because of an illness.

Since Parker, Kilpatrick, and Wright are guards the additional scoring must come from a frontcourt player. Cincinnati's Three Amigos are going to occupy the lion's share of the guard minutes and a scorer like Jeremiah Davis will have to wait for his turn in the rotation until next year.

Jackson, Cheikh Mbodj, and David Nyarsuk have proven track records of defense and rebounding. They do not however appear to be morphing into scorers any day soon.

It must be Sanders, Rubles, or Thomas. And it must be every night the lead trio lags a nick.

"Maybe now we will stop worrying about who is ranked where and worry about playing hard," said Coach Cronin. "We don't have anybody going in the first round of the NBA Draft, with all due respect to my players. Welcome to college basketball. The team that plays hard, rebounds, and plays defense is probably going to win."

"It's a shame because Cashmere had a great game tonight."


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