Looking to pick up its second straight road win, the St. John’s men’s basketball team will take on No. 21/22 Creighton on Saturday in Omaha.
Tip-off at CHI Health Center Omaha is set for 6 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network and 570 AM WMCA. Rich Waltz and Dan Dickau will call the action on television while John Minko and Vin Parise will narrate the Red Storm Sports Network broadcast from Learfield IMG College, which can also be found on TuneIn and Sirius XM.
The Red Storm (13-10, 2-8 BIG EAST) aims to pick up its fourth Quad One win and second ranked victory of the season when its takes on the No. 21/22 Bluejays (17-6, 6-4 BIG EAST). The Johnnies checked in at no. 72 in Friday morning’s release of the NET, the lowest mark of any team in a competitively balanced BIG EAST. Creighton, who sits at no. 21 in both the NET and the Associated Press Top 25, is one of five BIG EAST squads in the top 23 and one of eight in the top 55 of the latest NET rankings.
The Johnnies own two victories over teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the NET, as Arizona sits at no. 8 and West Virginia is right behind the Wildcats at no. 9. St. John’s took down Arizona on Dec. 21 in San Francisco, two weeks after handing the Mountaineers their first loss of the season at Madison Square Garden.
The Red Storm will look to right the ship after dropping consecutive contests at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” to then-No. 8 Villanova and Georgetown. Rasheem Dunn led the way for St. John’s during those games, pouring in a season-high 24 points against the Wildcats before posting a team-high 16 points against the Hoyas. Against Villanova, the Brooklyn native connected on 10 of his 16 attempts from the floor, including a 3-for-5 showing from three-point range. The redshirt junior guard also dished out four assists and surrendered only one turnover in that first outing. On the season, Dunn has reached double figures in 16 of his 20 appearances and currently ranks third on the team with 12.8 points per game while leading the squad with 3.2 assists per outing.
Senior guard Mustapha Heron also tallied 16 points against Georgetown in the team’s most recent contest, connecting on four triples and going a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. Over his last five games, the Waterbury, Conn., native is averaging 15.0 points per outing and shooting 42.9 percent (15-of-35) from beyond the arc. He is also a perfect 14-of-14 from the charity stripe during that stretch and ranks second in the league with a 91.3 percent conversion rate from the line during BIG EAST play.
The team’s leading scorer at 14.8 points per game this season, LJ Figueroa will look to replicate the scoring touch he showed in the Red Storm’s last road contest. Against DePaul on Jan. 25 in Chicago, the junior wing connected on seven of his 12 tries from beyond the arc, finishing with a career-high 28 points and falling one triple shy of the program’s single-game record in that category set by Avery Patterson in 2006. Figueroa’s became the seventh player in St. John’s history to hit seven or more threes in a game and the first since Shamorie Ponds did so against Fordham on Dec. 8, 2016.
Making his first appearance in the starting lineup since Jan. 8, Julian Champagnie posted his second collegiate double-double on Sunday against Georgetown. The freshman tallied 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and collected 10 boards. On the season, the Brooklyn native leads the team in rebounding at 6.2 caroms per game, good enough for ninth in the BIG EAST overall and second among the league’s freshmen behind Jeremiah Robinson-Earl of Villanova.
Creighton welcomes the Red Storm on the heels of a road loss to Providence on Wednesday night. The Bluejays held a 36-32 halftime lead before the Friars torched the nets in the latter stanza, connecting on eight of their 10 second-half chances from beyond the arc en route to a 73-56 victory. Creighton’s 56 points marked the team’s second lowest total of the season behind a 52-point showing against undefeated San Diego State on Nov. 28 in Las Vegas.
The Bluejays feature two of the league’s top scorers in Ty-Shon Alexander (16.4 ppg) and Marcus Zegarowski (15.6 ppg). The high-scoring backcourt tandem paces one of the nation’s most dangerous offenses, as Creighton ranks second in the BIG EAST and 35th nationally in the three-point field goal percentage at 36.8 percent.
The Bluejays’ top deep threat is neither of their two leading scorers, as junior guard Mitch Ballock leads the team and ranks 10th nationally hitting 45.0 percent of his three-point tries. The Eurdora, Kan., native has connected on 72 triples in just 23 appearances and averages 13.0 points per game.
St. John’s and Creighton will meet for the first time since the Johnnies swept the Bluejays during the 2018-19 regular seasons. The Red Storm took both of those contests in convincing fashion, topping Creighton by 15 in Queens on Jan. 16 before capturing its first ever win in Omaha, 83-67, two weeks later. In that second game, Heron and Figueroa combined for 32 points on 14 of 23 shooting while Ponds nearly recorded a triple-double with 26 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.
After their game in Omaha, the Johnnies will return home for two contests, hosting Providence at Carnesecca Arena on Feb. 12 before welcoming Xavier to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 17. Tickets for both those games are available by visiting RedStormTix.com or calling the ticket office at 1-888-GO-STORM.
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