The St. John’s men’s basketball team won its second game in as many tries this season at Madison Square Garden, picking up BIG EAST win number one of the Mike Anderson Era with a 74-67 victory over DePaul on Saturday at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
The Red Storm (12-5, 1-3 BIG EAST) rebounded from some recent offensive struggles to shoot 40.3 percent from the floor, a new high-water mark for the Johnnies in conference play. St. John’s valued the ball against the Blue Demons (12-4, 0-3 BIG EAST), surrendering just eight turnovers and assisting on 23 of their 25 made field goals. The Johnnies have registered eight or fewer turnovers in three of their four BIG EAST contests this season.
“I’m really happy for our guys,” said Coach Anderson after the win. “I thought they’ve been fighting, fighting, fighting. It’s good to see them finally get over the hump.”
Rasheem Dunn set a season-high point total for the second straight outing, leading the way with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. The redshirt junior guard from Brooklyn who made his first start as a Johnnie, also finished with eight boards and five assists, both of which were one off his season-high.
Mustapha Heron snapped a brief offensive funk with 15 points, 10 of which came in the first half. He sank three of his six tries from downtown and went a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. The senior guard from Waterbury, Conn., also dished out four assists and surrendered only one turnover.
Despite failing to appear in the starting lineup for the first time this season, freshman Julian Champagnie put forth his best effort of BIG EAST play. The 6-foot-7 forward went a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor and sank three free throws to finish with 11 points, four boards, three assists and a block.
LJ Figueroa narrowly missed becoming the fourth St. John’s player in double figures, tallying nine points, three assists and a pair of steals. David Caraher also added eight points for the Red Storm.
One of the nation’s top teams in terms of generating turnovers, the Red Storm lived up to its reputation on Saturday by forcing DePaul into 19 of them. 11 of those 19 miscues were the result of St. John’s steals, marking the team’s fourth straight outing with double-digit steals. Marcellus Earlington recorded a career-high four steals to lead the Johnnies, who entered the game ranking fourth in Division I with 10.6 thefts per contest.
DePaul took the upper hand early, using an 11-2 run to move ahead by six, 13-7, at the game’s first media timeout. After the stoppage, the Red Storm quickly rattled off a 7-1 spurt of their own to knot the contest at 14 with 11:50 remaining in the opening half.
Trailing by four, 24-20, after a Jaylen Butz layup with 7:30 to play, the Red Storm began to turn defense into offense, forcing three turnovers on a 10-0 run and moving ahead by six, 30-24, with 4:38 to play in the half. Figueroa scored five of the team’s points on the tear, while Dunn added a bucket and Heron capped it with a right-wing trey.
DePaul pulled within one, 30-29, before St. John’s extended its lead to five, 39-34, at the break. Heron recorded eight of the team’s final 11 points in the period.
The Red Storm shared the ball exceptionally well in the opening stanza, registering 15 assists on 15 made field goals.
St. John’s wasted no time extending its lead on the other side of the intermission, scoring the first six points of the half to take an 11-point edge, 45-34, two and a half minutes into the action. Heron scored five of those six points for the Red Storm.
With the Red Storm leading by 10 following a pair of Champagnie free throws with 12:29 to go, DePaul rattled off six straight to narrow the St. John’s advantage down to four, 53-49, just over a minute later.
The Johnnies promptly scored nine of the game’s next 10 points, opening up its largest lead of the afternoon, 62-50, with just over eight minutes remaining. Champagnie led the way with a pair of buckets on the run.
DePaul continued to battle, whittling the Red Storm lead down to a pair of possessions in the closing minutes.
With his team trailing by five and just under a minute to play, DePaul’s Jalen Coleman-Lands was fouled on a three-point attempt. He missed two of his three free throw tries before Greg Williams Jr. nailed both his attempts on the other end to make it a six-point game with 41 seconds to go.
The Red Storm returns to action on Wednesday, traveling to Providence for an 8:30 p.m. contest with the Friars. The game will be televised live nationally on FS1 and will be feature an audio broadcast on 570 AM WMCA.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“I’m really happy for our guys. I thought that they’ve been fighting, fighting and fighting. It’s good to see them finally get over the hump in a game in BIG EAST play. It’s the first game of the year that we’ve won in 2020, so hopefully it’s a good sign. I thought it was a game of runs. Defensively, we were pretty good. I thought we shared the basketball. We had 23 assists on 25 field goal attempts. That’s pretty efficient there. The one thing we have to learn though is how to finish off the game. We had a lot of unsung heroes and guys giving us some quality minutes. Julian Champagnie, right there at the end you saw him make some big, big plays for us whether it be a rebound, whether it be a stick back, whether it be getting to the basket as DePaul continued to amount their attack. I thought we did a good job on [Paul Reed]. He is a big, big key to their basketball team. Then of course [Charlie Moore], he’s going to do his thing. [Jaylen Butz], I thought he played well for them. It’s a good team win. I thought everyone contributed and contributed in a good way.”
On protecting the ball…
“That’s characteristic. We value the basketball and I thought we took care of it. Of course, we want to disrupt other teams, but we want to share the basketball. I thought you saw a team that was sharing. Another big stat was the guards rebounding the basketball. Last game we played against Georgetown, Rasheem [Dunn] had [nine] rebounds. Today, he is our leading rebounder. That tells me guys are starting to get it, to do the little things. That stat there is a big stat in terms of forcing turnovers and taking care of the ball. … Even though we lost the rebounding war, I would rather take the stat that contributes to winning, because a lot of times we are touching balls, deflecting balls, stealing balls and we’re scoring off them as opposed to rebounding. We missed a lot of shots, so they are going to get rebounds. It’s a telltale sign that we’re active and we’re engaged. I thought we played with a lot of energy today coming off of a quick turnaround.”
On second half performance…
“For a while I thought we were really good. We went up 12 and I thought our guys were really engaged, they were talking and they were touching balls, really getting after it. We changed our defense to a matchup where they get into gaps and attack us. At the three minute mark, we always talk about ‘there’s a lot of time in the game to finish the game off.’ … It was important for our guys to be in the outside position and get out to the three-point shooter. We did a good job on three-point shooters. They only went 3-for-15 today. The last few games, people have scored 28 threes on us. That was a point of emphasis in this game to run them off the line and I thought we did a really good job.”
On sharing the ball…
“I think when you look at most teams, when they share the ball, they move the ball and guys get it on time, good things happen. Even when we were attacking the basket at the end, Julian [Champagnie] went 4-for-4. A couple of those were stick-backs where he tipped it in because he knew when the shot was going up. We played with a much better rhythm today and trusted one another, didn’t care who shot the ball. David [Caraher] comes out, makes a couple of shots that got us going and we haven’t seen that in a while. Of course, [Mustapha Heron] is engaged and he’s doing the things he’s been doing all his career, I think it trickles throughout this team. It has a domino effect. Guys shoot and shoot it with confidence. … I thought ball movement was much better and we started the game in an attack mode. We were really attacking the basket and that gave guys the opportunity to spot up and knock shots or get some easy opportunities underneath the basket.”
St. John’s Guard Mustapha Heron
On what changed for him this game…
“Patience, I think. My teammates just gave me the ball in the right spots. I tried not to think about it and just let it go for the most part. I just made some shots today. My teammates definitely set me up and I had a lot more patience than I’ve had the last couple of games.”
On his shooting struggles in previous games…
“I think it’s a mental thing, just making sure that I’m locked and loaded every time that I’m ready to shoot. Making sure that I’m reminding myself that the ball is coming to me, let’s be ready before it gets to me. I shoot a higher percentage when I’m ready to shoot.”
On if there’s something nice about getting Coach Anderson his first BIG EAST win…
“We won a BIG EAST game. I mean that’s what’s nice about it. We add another win to the win column, and we got better today, I thought.”
St. John’s Guard Rasheem Dunn
On if it’s a different feeling starting the game versus coming off the bench…
“Honestly, it’s no different for me. It doesn’t matter about who starts or who finishes. Today, I started and I made that impact right away. My teammates found me and we got the win.”
On what it’s like playing in Madison Square Garden…
“Every day I just keep reminding myself that I’m in this building and on this team for a reason. I got to continue to work hard and continue to push myself and push my teammates. Playing in this building is actually really good. It’s exciting. The fans are in it, my teammates continue to push me, we play together and we got the win.”
DePaul Head Coach Dave Leitao
On St. John’s…
“When you play St John’s you have to play the game a little different than normal because of how they play both offense and defense. … I thought over the course of the game that [St. John’s] ability to do what they do every day was better than our ability to do what we try to do every day. They sped us up physically, but more importantly they sped us up mentally and made the plays that you have to make. … As a result, they got up and they stayed up. They got more confident and things happen for them.”
On Mike Anderson…
“St. John’s was struggling to find a head coach after Chris [Mullin] left to even find a quality coach. Then here comes Mike [Anderson] out of the blue and got criticized, St John’s did, for hiring a guy that has never ever, ever had a losing season. I laughed at it and I’m going to scratch my head because I think a lot of people forget that Mike [Anderson] has been successful in everything that he’s ever done in the sport of basketball and so quickly.
“From what I see and what I’ve seen on film, the mark of a coach is, you know, do they do the things more often than not that a coach asks them to do. They play a style that Mike asks them to play. They’re committed to playing together and with each other. It hasn’t always worked but [St. John’s], from a year one standpoint when most coaches would just throw the year away, Mike has got them in a really good place.”
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