A day after being undone by a strong second half from Arizona State, the St. John’s men’s basketball team outscored UMass by 16 in the latter period to top the Minutemen, 78-63, and take home third place at the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
Trailing at the half for the first time this season, St. John’s limited UMass to just 21.2 percent shooting, including a 15.8 percent effort from three-point range, in the latter stanza.
Offensively, David Caraher made four of his five field goal attempts and scored 12 of his season-high 17 points in the second half. On the game, Caraher shot 6-of-8 from the field, including a 3-for-5 effort from three-point range. The redshirt sophomore did all of his damage in just 21 minutes of game action, 18 of which came after the intermission.
Josh Roberts penned the latest chapter in his breakout sophomore campaign, scoring a career-high 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks.
The other half of the Red Storm’s front-court duo, Julian Champagnie put forth yet another solid performance to start his St. John’s tenure. The Brooklyn native tallied 12, seven boards and three steals, marking his seventh outing in as many tries with at least eight points and six rebounds. Champagnie was named to the all-tournament team for his effort.
Despite scoring just seven points on the afternoon, LJ Figueroa matched a career-high with six steals. As a team, the Johnnies combined for a season-high 13 thefts.
Following a back-and-forth start to the contest, St. John’ used a 10-0 run to move ahead by seven, 17-10, with 13 minutes to go in the first half. Caraher scored five points on that run, making a layup and draining a three. Rasheem Dunn assisted on two of the run’s four baskets.
Leading by eight, 28-20, with seven minutes to play in the opening period, the Red Storm endured an 11-3 Minutemen run to fall behind by a pair, 33-31, with just under four minutes remaining in the half.
The two teams traded leads the rest of the way before UMass took a 38-37 advantage into the locker room.
After the break, the Minutemen climbed ahead by as many as eight, 45-37, following a 7-0 run to start the half.
From there, Caraher scored the Red Storm’s next seven points to give the Johnnies the spark they desperately needed, draining a three and recording a pair of layups.
Still trailing by five, 53-48, with 11 minutes to play, the Red Storm unleashed a 13-0 run, holding UMass without a point for more than four minutes and moving ahead by eight. Champagnie kicked off the spurt with a three ball before adding another bucket later on. Marcellus Earlington also chipped in four points on the run.
UMass responded by trimming their deficit to three on a pair of occasions in the minutes following the St. John’s tear, but the Red Storm responded with a 9-1 run from the four-minute mark to the one-minute mark to put the game out of reach.
In total, St. John’s closed the game on a 15-3 run.
The Red Storm will return to action on Saturday, welcoming Wagner to Carnesecca Arena for a 12 p.m. tip. The game will kick off a five-game homestand against the Seahawks, a spurt that features four games in Queens and a showdown against West Virginia at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 7.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
On today’s game…
“Good bounce back for our basketball team after the tough loss against Arizona State, a very good basketball team. I thought our guys didn’t have the hangover effect that we came out with. Defensively, in the first half we got after it. … In your mind it might be unlikely heroes [in today’s win], but for me, I see it every day in practice. Guys came off the bench and they gave us a big lift. When our team plays good, our bench plays well. You go down the line. [Marcellus Earlington and Greg Williams Jr.], I thought they came in and gave us great, great minutes. One of the guys that started the game and came off the bench in the second half was Nick [Rutherford]. I thought he had the biggest impact on the game defensively and just controlling tempo. That was a good UMass team. They really can shoot the basketball well, but we were able to hold on and find a way to get a win.”
On David Caraher…
“David [Caraher], I think I must have went crazy because I think once I put him in, I didn’t take him out and then played 18 straight minutes. Not once did he put his hands up and say ‘Coach, I need a breather.’ That tells me he wanted those minutes and was very effective in those minutes.”
On slowing the tempo down with the lead in the second half…
“For the most part, I thought we opened the floor up and ran the shot clock down and got some good shots. But I think the biggest thing we did was we played defense. So it’s a process and they’re learning. … You learn how to win. So the biggest lesson I have learned is our guys have a bounce back ability. I thought we bounced back the right way.”
On Josh Roberts’ play this season…
“He’s doing the things that we ask him to do. He is an energy guy. He rebounds the basketball. He’s finishing around the basket. He’s one of the fastest guys on our team and I think the more he plays, the more comfortable he’s getting. I think what our defense, whether it be the pressure, or even in our matchup zone today, we sent a lot of things his way down there. I think he’s using his God-given ability to go in and be a rim protector. I think it’s more about the confidence and he works extremely hard. He’s a very coachable young man. He’s oozing with potential. We can see that. But I think he’s stayed within the confines of what he can do right now. Again, I’m just happy for him because he can he see his role on his basketball team. I think he’s fulfilling it.”
On what he learned about the team today …
“I thought our guys responded the right way. We didn’t panic. We trusted one another. We were down eight, David [Caraher] makes a big shot, makes it 45-40 if I’m not mistaken, and I could just see antennas go up. We showed some resolve today. We really did.”
On the team’s depth…
“We’re developing our basketball team. These guys are not just going to get mop-up minutes. They’re getting quality minutes. That can only make them better players. You get more comfortable with what we’re doing. ‘Stay ready,’ is my motto. Stay ready, you never know when that opportunity is coming. This was game number seven and so I’m still trying to figure out what I do have and I saw some good things today.”
St. John’s Forward Josh Roberts
On if he’s surprised by his start to the season…
“Not really. I always knew I had this ability to do what I can do. We do it every day in practice. I have pretty good confidence in my abilities.”
On what has changed between last year and this year…
“Probably my mindset. Last year, not playing a lot, I got discouraged a little bit. But I started to step in and started to play more every game. I get more and more confident and more comfortable being on the floor and being able to do what I can do.”
“We do so much in practice and we get put into so many situations. When I see it in the game, it’s not new to me.”
On how much fun he’s having this year…
“I’m having a lot of fun. I don’t take it for granted, but it’s fun being able to play the minutes that I’m playing and help my team doing what I need to do. Being out there to ball with them is amazing.”
St. John’s Guard/Forward David Caraher
On what he was thinking entering the game when the team was down eight points…
“I would just say Coach preaches it to us every day in practice, don’t try to make the 10-point play. We do it every day in practice. We drill the same stuff. We do it every single day. Just continuing to trust him and trust my teammates. I love these guys. I love this team. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else to be honest.”
On performing when Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa are in foul trouble…
“I would say it’s important. We have a lot of different guys that, Coach said, can do a lot of different things. I can’t say enough about my teammates to be honest. They push me every day in practice and they constantly have just told me to stay ready, be ready. I went out there and did what I do every day in practice and it worked for me today.”
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