While Iowa State proved worthy of being a ranked team with an impressive Thanksgiving weekend, St. John’s is undefeated but lacking a signature win from its non-conference schedule.
The 23rd-ranked Cyclones will look to continue their climb in the rankings and the Red Storm will seek the notable win to maintain their strong start Sunday afternoon when the teams convene in Ames, Iowa, in the Big East-Big 12 Battle.
Iowa State (6-1), which made the Sweet 16 last season after winning two games in the 2020-21 season, earned its place in the rankings by beating Villanova and North Carolina — which was No. 1 at the time – before being dominated inside by then-No. 20 UConn at last weekend’s Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore.
The Cyclones allowed 45 points per game in their first three contests against lower-echelon opponents before heading to Portland and earning the runner-up finish. In their first game since entering the Top 25, the Cyclones continued to defend well when they allowed 35.4 percent shooting from the floor and forced 20 turnovers in a 63-44 win over North Dakota on Wednesday. They survived a sluggish opening half by outscoring North Dakota 37-20 in the second half.
“This is a tough game,” Caleb Grill said. “Turnaround after a big tournament and then we have two big games coming forward. We just have to be better mentally focused going into games like this and we have to know what the job is, and we’ve got to put them away early.”
The Cyclones are forcing turnovers on 30.7 percent of opponents’ possessions — the second-best percentage in the country.
Grill, who scored 31 in the North Carolina win, led the Cyclones with 16 points against North Dakota, helping Iowa State to survive rough showings from the trio of Jaren Holmes, Osun Osunniyi and Gabe Kalscheur, who shot a combined 5 of 23 from the floor.
St. John’s (8-0) hardly received any consideration in last week’s poll when it received one vote. The Red Storm are leaving New York City for the first time this season and its two notable wins were against Temple and former Big East rival Syracuse in the Empire Classic, which was played in Brooklyn.
The Red Storm head into their first true road game following a dominant 95-68 victory over Long Island University on Tuesday. Unlike home games against Lafayette, Central Connecticut State and Niagara, the Red Storm dominated from the outset as it led by double-digits for the final 31-plus minutes, held a 24-point lead by halftime and led by as many as 34.
“I think we’re playing pretty good basketball,” St, John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “When we go on the road, we’re going to play against a team (Iowa State) that’s a really good defensive team. Like all teams, they play well at home. We know we’re going to have to defend and hit shots. That’s the bottom line.”
Joel Soriano, whose 12.4 rebounds per game led the nation through Friday’s game, posted his NCAA-best seventh double-double with 16 and 10 rebounds and is the main reason why St. John’s is a top-10 rebounding team at 43.0 per game.
The schools are meeting for the second time and first time since 1948, when St. John’s won 71-47 at Madison Square Garden behind legendary coach Frank McGuire.
–Field Level Media