<
>

W2W4: St. John's vs. Northeastern

Here are three things to watch for when St. John's (4-2) takes on Northeastern (2-1) on Saturday at Carnesecca Arena.

Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m., and you can watch the game via ESPN3.

WHO'S IN CHARGE? St. John's coach Steve Lavin missed the Red Storm's last game, on Tuesday against St. Francis (NY), as he continues to recuperate from prostate cancer surgery. But Lavin was back with the team later in the week and met with the media on Friday, so you can expect him to be back on the sideline on Saturday.

"I'm cancer-free. All the blood work that has come back from the doctor says it's straight A's," said Lavin on Friday. "The only place where I am challenged is stamina and energy. Moving forward, I have to be mindful of my energy levels and how I utilize fuel.

"The great thing is we have as strong a staff as there is in the country. I'm flanked by the best group of assistant coaches in the country. We don't miss a beat even as I continue this modified schedule."

ON THE INTERIOR: This is St. John's final tune-up, so to speak, before traveling south to play No. 2 Kentucky at Rupp Arena next Thursday -- a daunting task, to be sure. The Red Storm desperately need to get improved production in the post -- and that means from God'sgift Achiuwa, who is basically the only post player St. John's has.

The 6-foot-8 Achuiwa averaged a team-high 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in the team's first three games of the season. But in the last three, he has nine points and 12 rebounds total.

Assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who coached in Lavin's place on Tuesday night, said he is not worried about Achiuwa at this point -- that it's been more of a case of other players stepping up. On Friday, Lavin said that he is emphasizing getting Achuiwa the ball down low more, giving him more opportunities to score or make plays.

THE OPPONENT: Northeastern, picked to finish ninth in the 12-team Colonial Athletic Association in the conference's preseason poll, is 2-1 on the season. The Huskies owns wins at home over Southern Illinois, and at Boston University in overtime; their loss came at UMass by 16.

Four Northeastern players average in double figures, led by 6-foot-2 junior guard Jonathan Lee, who is scoring 16.7 points per game. Joel Smith, a 6-foot-4 junior, is averaging 13.3 points per game.

"They have excellent guard play," said Lavin. "They do a nice job of on-ball screening, they attack the 3-point line well. So their speed, quickness and skill are some things we have to be mindful of and just be alert defensively in terms of our assignments and our coverages."