By Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange
CINCINNATI -- D'Angelo Harrison, the Big East Conference's leading scorer, hit a jumper with 29 seconds left to lift St. John's to a 53-52 upset of No. 14 Cincinnati before 8,142 at Fifth Third Arena.
Prior to Saturday's game at No. 14 Cincinnati, St. John's head coach Steve Lavin put just one word on the dry erase board in the Red Storm locker room: "rebound." He felt no other motivation was necessary.
"That was our focus all day, from yesterday through the pre-game meal," Lavin said. "I thought if we outrebounded them, we would win. If not, we won't. It led to other good things for us."
Harrison scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, including the game-winner.
"Coach could've called anybody's number," Harrison said. "He had the confidence in me. I got the switch I wanted and a great shot. The key was rebounding. We grinded it out, got a gritty win on the road. It feels great."
JaKarr Sampson scored a team-leading 16 points for the Red Storm, which outrebounded the Bearcats 40-34, limiting UC's offense and helping create 14 fast-break points. St. John's (9-5, 1-1 Big East) forced 16 turnovers and had five blocked shots.
Cincinnati (13-2, 1-1 Big East) shot just 31.7 percent and trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half before storming back. It was the second consecutive season that St. John's upset the Bearcats on their home floor. In last year's 57-55 victory, UC was just 7-for-32 from 3-point range. They were 8-for-26 from beyond the arc on Saturday.
"We established our zone defense," said Harrison. "It was a problem for them. We wanted them to go more one-on-one."
Cashmere Wright, who led all scorers with 23 points including five 3-pointers, scored on a layup to put Cincinnati ahead with 53 seconds left. But Harrison answered moments later for the Red Storm.
Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin had challenged his team this week to get off to a faster start in games, something the Bearcats hadn't done recently but still had managed to rally in the second half to win several games. Cronin was particularly frustrated by his players' effort on Saturday.
"We got outplayed for 35 minutes," Cronin said. "If you don't come to play you're going to lose. It doesn't matter what name is on the front or back of the jersey. Somebody forgot to send St. John's the memo that they weren't supposed to win today."
Titus Rubles added 14 points for the Bearcats, including three 3-pointers.
Wright got the Bearcats started on Saturday by scoring UC's first eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
St. John's began the game 0-for-5 from the field with two turnovers. Chris Obekpa's dunk was the Red Storm's first field goal with 14:16 left in the first half.
Midway through the first half, St. John's was just 2 of 11 from the field with four turnovers but only trailed by two points.
Wright's third 3-pointer put UC ahead 19-12. But the Red Storm responded with an 8-0 run to grab their first lead.
Cincinnati struggled on offense early in the game, shooting just 28.6 percent with four assists and 11 turnovers in the first half. St. John's led 24-21 at halftime.
The Red Storm went on a 10-0 run early in the second half. Sampson scored to put the Red Storm ahead 30-24 with 16:56 left. Two straight 3-pointers by Wright got the Bearcats within two points with fewer than three minutes left, but his performance wasn't enough for UC.
"They came into our gym and outplayed us," Wright said.
NOTES: Cincinnati scored 29 or fewer points in the first half for the sixth straight game, going 4-2 in those contests. ... Bearcats guard Cashmere Wright had just one assist on Saturday, leaving him one shy of passing UC legend Oscar Robertson into fourth place in school history. ... Red Storm guard D'Angelo Harrison has scored 20 points or more in 10 of the first 14 games. ... St. John's now leads the all-time series 9-7, including 4-2 in Cincinnati. ... Cronin remained tied for third place on the school's all-time wins list with 127 coaching victories.