The St. John’s men’s basketball team used a balanced scoring effort and tenacious defense to drop Columbia, 82-63, at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday night.
Mustapha Heron led all St. John’s scorers with 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting. The senior guard hit two of his three tries from downtown, improving his three-point field goal percentage to 65.0 percent on the year (13-of-20).
Playing just his second game as a member of the Red Storm, Rasheem Dunn posted all 14 of his points in the first half in addition to leading the team with three assists and three steals.
Freshman wing Julian Champagnie put forth another consistent performance for the Johnnies, finishing with a season-high 14 points to go along with seven rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes of action. In five collegiate appearances, the Brooklyn native has yet to record fewer than eight points or six rebounds in any one contest.
David Caraher and LJ Figueroa narrowly missed making it five in double figures for St. John’s, finishing with nine points apiece.
The sophomore trio of Josh Roberts, Marcellus Earlington and Greg Williams Jr. made its presence felt on Wednesday night. Roberts pulled down double-digit rebounds for the second straight game, grabbing 11 boards in addition to blocking three shots. Earlington tallied eight points on 4-of-7 shooting and collected eight rebounds in only 16 minutes of action. After going scoreless in his last two outings, Williams logged five points and two assists.
As a team, the Red Storm shot 43.1 percent from the floor, including a 7-for-15 (46.7%) showing from three-point range.
After coughing up a season-high 16 turnovers on Saturday against Vermont, the Red Storm recorded just eight miscues against the Lions. On the other side of that coin, the Johnnies turned 18 Columbia turnovers, 10 of which came off steals, into 23 points. St. John’s has now reached double digits in steals three times in its first five outing.
With the game tied at four after three minutes of action, the Red Storm ripped off an 11-0 run to take a sizeable lead early, holding the Lions without a point for nearly six minutes.
Shortly thereafter, the Red Storm used another run, this time of the 8-0 variety to take a 17-point advantage, 25-8, near the midway mark of the half. Dunn scored the final five points of the spurt for the Johnnies after Caraher kicked things off with a three.
Columbia pulled within 11 before another 7-0 run put the Red Storm ahead by 18, 36-18, with five minutes to go in the period.
Trailing by 22, 49-27, at the break, Columbia used an early 7-0 spurt to pull within 15 and force a St. John’s timeout 17:20 to play. The Red Storm quickly responded out of the stoppage with nine unanswered of its own, taking its largest lead of the game to that point, 62-38.
The Red Storm led by as many as 30 with just under nine minutes remaining in the second half before Columbia narrowed the deficit down the stretch.
This coming weekend, the Johnnies will play their first games this season away from the friendly confines of Carnesecca Arena, traveling to Mohegan Sun for the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament presented by Citi. The Red Storm will kick things off with an NCAA Tournament rematch against Arizona State on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The following day, the Johnnies will square off against either No. 7 Virginia or UMass.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
On tonight’s game…
“Our guys came out with a sense of urgency and I believe we kept that sense of urgency throughout the game. Guys came off the bench to give us some quality minutes. It was good team win. We did a much better job of taking care of the basketball.”
“I was proud of our guys just coming in and playing with a sense of urgency on defense and offense. I think that’s the biggest thing I saw.”
On the team’s style of play…
“I think it gets you to play instinctively when you play that way. Even in our last game, I thought we played hard, we just didn’t play smart. We had six assists for the whole game. That’s not our type of team. Today, we were a lot better in terms of ball movement, sharing the basketball and guys not playing a whole lot of minutes. I think it puts you in attack mode and we want to play in attack mode. Defensively, not letting people get comfortable, make the game chaotic. At the same time, offensively, we want to make them expend a lot of energy guarding us. We did a much better job of tonight in that department.”
On if Rasheem Dunn will be inserted into the starting lineup…
“Obviously, to me, he is a starter. Whether he comes off the bench or starts, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is minutes. I think that’s what you have to look at. … They key is getting quality minutes and what you do with those minutes, but you can see how he just impacts our basketball team. He’s a threat offensively. He’s tenacious on defense. He’s like a little lightning bolt out there, as a matter of fact when you talk about the type of player he is. He’s a team player.”
On the team being ready for the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip Off Classic this weekend…
“Ready or not, it’s the next test. It’s the next test on our schedule. All it is, is it’s getting you prepared for what’s going to take place in BIG EAST play. … This is going to be a neutral site against a very, very good Arizona State team that has a lot of returning players. But my guys will enjoy this to midnight and then we’ll get ready for Arizona State.”
On Julian Champagnie…
“He continues to get confident. That’s going to be important because he’s a guy, one of those stretch forwards that can stretch the floor for us. He can guard a guard. He can switch out on a big. Getting his confidence growing only makes us a much better basketball team.”
St. John’s Guard Mustapha Heron
On rebounding from last game…
“I think we cleaned up exactly what we needed to clean up last game, which was turnovers and our defense. We had I think eight turnovers by the end of the game, they had 18. …. We had 12 turnovers in the second half last week, so I think that we focused on cleaning that up and trying to clean up our defense and both were really productive tonight.”
On what coach was like in the huddle after Columbia scored several times at the start of the second half…
“I don’t think he was angry; it was more just trying to motivate us to continue what we were doing and not change what got us the success in the first place.”
On playing tough teams this weekend on the road in Connecticut…
“It will be a great challenge. We’re looking forward to it. Taking a look at the teams that are going to be out there this weekend starting with Arizona State, you know, definitely have some history losing to them last year. But like coach just said in the locker room before we came out here, ‘it’s a new year this year.’ We’re coming in with a new mindset, preparation is going to be a little different and I think we’re going to be ready.”
St. John’s Guard Rasheem Dunn
On the difference from this game compared to the last game…
“I think we bounced back from the Vermont game. We just approached the game differently coming off a tough loss. We just had to take our anger out on an opponent, not that Columbia is a bad team, they’re a very good team. It was just a tough loss that we dealt with and we felt like we had to bounce back.”
On how he feels about coming off the bench…
“Starting, on the bench, it doesn’t really matter to me. The way coach plays and the way coach’s style is, everybody plays. Me coming off the bench, I just got to pick up the starters and continue to apply that pressure and continue to motivate my team and do what we do.”
Columbia Head Coach Jim Engles
On St. John’s…
“I thought St John’s played great. They played focused basketball. They really physically dominated us at times on the glass.”
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