St. John's seeks 2nd straight upset of No. 2 Duke

St. John's seeks 2nd straight upset of No. 2 Duke

St. John's coach Chris Mullin likes the variety that the Red Storm have encountered through 21 games this season.

"Over the course of the year, we've seen everything," Mullin said.

But perhaps nothing quite like No. 2 Duke.

The teams will meet in a nonconference game Saturday afternoon in Durham, N.C., another chance for Duke's highly touted freshmen to play in a big game.

RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson are both averaging more than 20 points per game, and their outings tend to be full of highlights.

"Zion makes spectacular plays on both ends of the court," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Sometimes his defense is overshadowed by some of the dunks he has."

Barrett said he's enjoying the experience. He, Williamson and other players on the team don't shy away from the spotlight.

"As you can see, it's a lot of fun," Barrett said. "In big games, we play great. We love that stage, so it's a lot of fun."

Duke (18-2) hasn't played since a Monday thrashing of host Notre Dame, marking the team's fourth straight victory.

The Blue Devils posted a 7-1 record in January. That reflects the best January for the team since a 7-1 mark nine years ago.

However, St. John's won't be in awe of this challenge, particularly after the developments from last winter.

A season ago, the Red Storm had lost 11 consecutive games before pulling off a shocking 81-77 victory against Duke at Madison Square Garden in New York. Guard Shamorie Ponds, now a junior, led the upset with 33 points.

That result was the beginning of a four-game St. John's winning streak that included a win over then-No. 1 Villanova.

Blue Devils who are no longer on the team accounted for all except four of Duke's points in that game.

This time, St. John's (16-5) is coming off an 83-67 whipping of host Creighton on Wednesday night, snapping a two-game losing skid.

"We're very capable of bouncing back and playing a good game," Mullin said.

Mullin likes the team's ability to adjust to different situations.

"We haven't played terrible basketball," he said. "We've had some tough stretches, tough breaks, like who doesn't?"

Ponds has reached the 20-point mark in seven consecutive games, and he is averaging a team-best 20.9 points per contest.

The Red Storm has received a recent lift from junior guard Mustapha Heron, who has averaged 18.3 points across the last four games.

Duke has relied on interior scoring for much of the season, going through stretches when perimeter shooting has been shaky. However, in the Notre Dame game this week, the Blue Devils hit on 10 of 19 shots from 3-point range, a season-best 52.6 percent.

Duke is 125-22 all-time when playing as the No. 2 team in the country.

In nonleague home games, the Blue Devils have won 146 consecutive games. The last defeat in such a contest came in a one-point loss to St. John's on Feb. 26, 2000.

For the Red Storm, this will be the middle game of a tough, three-game road stretch. They play at No. 10 Marquette on Tuesday.

--Field Level Media

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