|St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino looks on before his team is introduced at Carnesecca Arena earlier this season. Photo by Jason Schott.
The St. John's Red Storm return to Madison Square Garden on Saturday at high noon for a Big East matchup with the Marquette Golden Eagles.
St. John's, which received votes in the AP Top 25 ranking, enters this one with a 4-3 Big East record, 12-6 overall. They are coming off as tough a road trip as you could have, as they suffered a one-point loss, 66-65, at Creighton last Saturday, and then an 80-65 humbling by Seton Hall in Jersey on Tuesday night.
Marquette, led by Head Coach Shaka Smart, enters this one No. 17/18 in the county, and they are 3-3 in Big East play and 12-5 overall.
St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino tested positive for Covid just before Tuesday's game, which he did not coach, but he will be back on the sidelines on Saturday.
Pitino Pregame: The Hall of Fame coach addressed the media on the St. John's campus on Friday morning:
On St. John's: "We were playing good basketball. We played Connecticut to the wire on the road, beat Villanova wire-to-wire, played Creighton to the wire. Even in losses, I was very pleased with our team's performance and, obviously, all of us did not like what we witnessed the other day. I'd like to give credit to Seton Hall for the way they played. We just had one of those nights where we didn't bring it. If this team is not clicking on all cylinders from an effort standpoint, they're going to get beat. We are not talented, tall enough athletic enough to overcome not giving an extraordinary effort."
On Marquette: "We have to play a great game to beat a Marquette team with the weapons they have, the defense they play where they get a turnover one out of every four times down the court. They get a steal one out of every seven times down the court. We have to play exceptionally well to beat a team like that. They are seasoned, they have been together, we have gone through a lot of problems in practice with people out constantly, so we have to overcome that.
"Marquette is a team that can embarrass you very easily. They are so good at what they do that they can embarrass you. It's not like playing against some other teams that do one or two things really well. This team thrives on the deflection, the steal and getting out. They have the MVP of the league, so they do many things very well. They average 34 deflections a game and we average like 16. They are a well-oiled machine. When you beat a Kansas or a Texas, you are a well-oiled machine."
On the effort from his St. John's team: "My wife has a silly expression that all of us in our family poke fun at, 'Nothing changes if nothing changes.' If you don't change, nothing to going to change...It's not one person, it's all of them, collectively. If you don't change, who you are and become better at what you do, from a work standpoint, nothing will change in your life. You will just be mediocre. That's my belief, but I'm not going to let one game change my opinion of who we are. We had a bad night and had a lot of good nights...
I look at their motors, their work ethic. That's how I judge people, on their work ethic. That's why I love Daniss [Jenkins] so much. That's why I love Zuby [Ejiofor] so much because of their work ethic. They bring it every day in practice, they bring it every single day. They are dependable, they are predictable. I know who they are...It's just who Daniss and Zuby are. They may have an off night shooting, but they will never let that deter from their motors. You saw it the other night."