The St. John’s men’s basketball recorded its highest scoring total of BIG EAST play on Saturday evening, but it was no match for the offensive onslaught of Creighton, as the No. 21/22 Bluejays pulled away for a 94-82 victory at CHI Health Center Omaha.
The Red Storm (13-11, 2-9 BIG EAST) pulled within two points on a pair of occasions near the midway mark of the second half before the Bluejays (18-6, 7-4 BIG EAST) outscored the Johnnies down the stretch, 32-22. On the game, Creighton shot 60.3 percent (35-of-58) from the floor, including a 13-for-28 effort from three-point range. The Bluejays’ 94 points were the highest single-game total recorded by a St. John’s opponent this season.
Marcellus Earlington registered the best offensive outing of his St. John’s tenure, scoring a career-high 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including a 3-for-4 showing from beyond the arc. The sophomore from Stony Point, N.Y., also pulled down a career-best 10 boards for his first collegiate double-double. Coming into the contest, Earlington had made just three triples all season long.
Two other Johnnies reached double figures in the scoring column, as LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Heron finished with 12 points apiece. The pair combined to go 5-of-9 from three-point range.
Freshman Julian Champagnie narrowly missed his second double-double in as many tries, posting nine points and eight rebounds.
The Red Storm outrebounded an opponent for the first time during BIG EAST play, grabbing 41 boards to the Bluejays’ 31.
The Johnnies, who ranked fourth nationally in steals entering the game at 10.4 per contest, managed just one theft against the Bluejays. St. John’s had recorded fewer than five just once this season, tallying four against Arizona State in late November.
The Bluejays came out of the gate firing, hitting seven of their first 10 field goal tries, including four of their first six tries from three, to take an 18-8 lead with just under six minutes gone in the game.
Trailing by double digits early, the Red Storm slowly chipped into the Creighton advantage, pulling within two, 28-26, on a Nick Rutherford jumper with nine minutes to go in the opening half.
The two teams traded buckets over the next several minutes before a 7-0 Creighton run bumped the Bluejays’ lead back to 10, 43-33, at the final media timeout of the period. St. John’s then scored back-to-back buckets to make it a six-point game before Creighton closed the half with consecutive makes of their own, taking a 47-37 lead into the intermission.
The Red Storm started the second half strong, using a pair of Earlington threes to quickly pull within four before a Heron triple moved the Johnnies within two, 59-57, with 13 minutes to play.
Trailing by two, 62-60, after Earlington’s third 3-ball of the half, Creighton uncapped a 13-4 run to move back ahead by double digits, 75-64, following a pair of Ty-Shon Alexander free throws with eight and half minutes to play.
A 3-for-3 trip to the line from Heron brought the Red Storm back within eight, 78-70, with six and a half minutes to go, but Creighton responded with an 11-2 run to put the game out of reach.
The Red Storm will play each of its next two games at home, welcoming Providence to Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday night before playing host to Xavier on Feb. 17 at Madison Square Garden. Tickets for both games are available by visiting RedStormTix.com or calling the St. John’s Ticket Office at 1-888-GO-STORM.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“I thought the three point line was the difference and that’s what [Creighton] does. They had some momentum shots. We cut the lead to two on two occasions. … We scored twos, they scored threes and that shows you the explosiveness of their basketball team. … I’m proud of our guys’ effort. I thought our guys fought, just didn’t have enough in the tank when it was all set and done.”
On the team’s turnovers…
“To me, it wasn’t about the turnovers. They took care of the basketball. I thought our pressure wasn’t to necessarily steal the basketball. When we did get into it I thought we were disruptive. They take care of the basketball. I thought we didn’t do a really good job of keeping the ball in front of us. The defense has to be much, much better.”
On if the team used the press less this game…
“We mixed it up. It isn’t about the press, I don’t think people get that. I thought when we went into it, we were disruptive.”
On Marcellus Earlington’s three-point shooting…
“He’s a guy that works on it. … If you watch our team through the course of the year, we’re getting more guys that are starting to really get more confident in their roles with what they’re bringing to the table. I just want to see us put it all together on one night.”
On the team’s effort…
“We played competitive, we were right there. … I thought we came out in the second half and we scored, they scored, it went back and forth. Then we caught up with 12 minutes to go and it’s a two-point game. Then with 11 minutes to go, it was a two-point game. That’s when to me, our defense really had to dig in and start going.”
On LJ Figueroa…
“They paid a lot of attention to him. That allowed other guys to have pretty decent games. He’s the target. Coming into this year, he’s on the top of the scouting report and it probably did get frustrating.”
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