Preview: Okafor vs. Obekpa, Duke vs St. John’s at Madison Square Garden

Before Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s historic 1,000th win was accomplished, I offered this review of the history existing between the teams in The Mecca.

On Sunday it will be Jahlil Okafor versus Chris Obekpa at the World’s Most Famous Arena.  Obekpa has the short shorts akin the the Redmen of the 1980s.  Okafor has the offensive post game that is reminiscent of that era.
The history lives on microfilm.  No, I’m not making reference to the 1938 barn burner that saw Duke lose 25-44 to St. John’s.  I’m talking about the other battles at Madison Square Garden between these two teams.

The November 30, 1985 Chicago Tribune game recap details just one of many classics at MSG. Click here to read the full archive. 

Despite Walter Berry’s career-high 35 points scored, it was Johnny Dawkins of Duke’s last second shot that won the game.  Mark Jackson missed a jumpshot that could have given St. John’s the win.

Those were the days of the Redmen.

In 1999, Ron Artest’s 8th-ranked St. John’s Redmen also fell to Shane Battier’s 2nd-ranked Blue Devils.

In the new millennium, Duke continued its dominance at Madison Square Garden winning 4 of 6 match-ups.  Fittingly, the last game between the two universities at MSG resulted in the son of a New York Knicks player, Anthony Mason Jr., leading St. John’s to victory.

It’s cliche to say, “There’s something special about St. John’s playing a big game at the Garden.”  But it’s also cliché because it’s true.  Chris Mullen won the first of three Big East Championships on New York’s home floor in 1983.

If you need further proof that this game will be epic, director Spike Lee is already circling the premises.

There is no bigger game this season for St. John’s than this one.  After beginning the season 11-1, the Red Storm have been caught in the rain.  The team’s ill luck was exemplified with Rysheed Jordan’s two-game absence.  His leave occurred early in a skid that saw St. John’s win only 2 of 6 games.  In this last game, it appeared St. John’s was looking past Marquette.  The Red Storm barely fended them off for a win.  St. John’s stands in 8th place in the current Big East.

Duke, on the other hand, has not had an easy month of January itself.  The Blue Devils were upset against NC State and Miami.  They’ve rebounded to defeat 4th-ranked Louisville and Pittsburgh most-recently.

The key will be Jahlil Okafor.  St. John’s has an extremely thin bench, especially when it comes to size.  If Okafor can get Obepka’s short-shorts sat down on the bench with foul trouble early, it could be a long night for St. John’s.  However, this is the game a D’Angelo Harrison attends St. John’s for.  I don’t expect the senior point guard to disappoint.

Duke at St. John’s tip is set for 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, 1 p.m. Central.
The Duke Blue Devils are a 6 point favorite, according to

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