In his two seasons at St. John’s, Greg Williams Jr. had never scored more than 11 points in a single game. On Sunday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena, the sophomore guard forever etched his name in St. John’s lore, connecting on seven 3-pointers and leading the Red Storm to a 91-71 win over No. 10/11 Creighton.
The win marked the first for the Johnnies against a top-10 opponent on campus since Dec. 9, 1975, when the Redmen knocked off Bernard King and No. 7 Tennessee, 79-70, at Alumni Hall. The 20-point margin of victory tied for the third widest in program history against a top 10 opponent and was the largest for St. John’s against a top-10 foe since Malik Sealy tallied a 25-point, 18-rebound double-double in a 90-57 rout of No. 6 Connecticut at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1, 1992.
“It’s good to see us put 40 minutes together,” said St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson. “Even as they came back and they took the lead our guys didn’t waver. We continued to do what we were doing. Our guys continued to make the right plays defensively and offensively.”
As a team, the Red Storm connected on 14 of its 22 tries (63.6%) from beyond the arc, setting season-highs for both made triples and three-point percentage. St. John’s, which entered the game ranked 307th nationally in three-point percentage, had not made more than 46.7 percent of its long-range tries in any one game this season.
The Bluejays, who ranked ninth in the nation with a three-point percentage of 38.5 entering Sunday’s contest, connected on just four of their 27 tries from deep (14.8%). Mitch Ballock, Ty-Shon Alexander and Marcus Zegarowski, all of whom were shooting better than 40 percent from three-point range on the season, combined to go 4-for-21 from downtown.
Williams’ career-high 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc were far from the only highlight for the Johnnies on Sunday.
Rasheem Dunn tallied his first double-double as a Johnnie, pouring in 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting while adding a career-high 10 assists and six rebounds. As a team, St. John’s assisted on 23 of its 33 made field goals, the team’s second highest total of the season in that category.
LJ Figueroa recorded his second double-double of the campaign, scoring 16 points while grabbing a season-high 12 boards. The junior wing, who connected on three of his four tries from beyond the arc, also dished out five assists and blocked a shot in 31 minutes of action.
Freshman Julian Champagnie finished in double figures for the fifth straight game, tallying 13 points and five rebounds. The Brooklyn native made five of his 10 field goal attempts, including a 2-for-4 showing from beyond the arc.
David Caraher scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, including a few clutch three-point plays. Nick Rutherford recorded five points and five assists while finishing with a team-best plus/minus of +27.
After a back-and-forth start resulted in a 14-14 tie with six minutes gone in the contest, the Red Storm broke open the scoring with a 14-2 run. Caraher kicked off the tear with a baseline jumper before Williams added his second trey of the day. Following a Christian Bishop layup, four different Johnnies found the bottom of the bucket, including a 15-foot jumper from Justin Cole to cap the run and put the Red Storm ahead by 12, 28-16, with 9:13 to play in the half.
Creighton missed its first nine attempts of the game from beyond the arc before Ballock knocked down a trey to pull the Bluejays within three, 37-34, with 2:41 remaining in the half.
From there, the Red Storm rattled off five straight to move ahead by as many as eight before taking a seven-point lead, 44-37, into the locker room.
Creighton chipped away at the St. John’s lead to the start of the second half, eventually pulling back ahead, 56-54, after a Damien Jefferson layup and a 1-for-2 trip to the line for Alexander with 12:51 to go.
Facing its first deficit since 10-9 at the 15:32 mark of the first half, St. John’s did not trail for long. Rutherford, Williams and Figueroa nailed treys on three consecutive possessions, putting the Red Storm ahead by seven, 63-56, with 11:08 remaining.
With St. John’s leading by four, 67-63, and eight minutes to go, Williams’ fifth triple of the day kick-started a 17-1 run in the span of just three minutes, quickly putting the game out of reach. Williams, who had hit just 12 3-pointers on the year entering Sunday’s contest, nailed three treys on the spurt while Figueroa added another.
The Red Storm last scored 91 points in a BIG EAST game at Carnesecca Arena on Dec. 27, 2011, as Moe Harkless went for 32 and 13 in a 24-point win over Providence.
The Johnnies have two games remaining in the 2019-20 regular season, traveling to Butler for a Wednesday night matchup before closing things out with Senior Day against Marquette at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon. Tickets for the regular season finale are available by visiting RedStormTix.com or calling the St. John’s Ticket Office at 1-888-GO-STORM.
“Creighton, no questions about it, is an incredible basketball team. Today was one of our better days. Defensively, we were good. It’s amazing when you make shots and that ball goes through the hole. It just energizes your whole team. I thought the guys that started got us off to a good start. Even as we got in the middle part of the game I thought we stayed true to who we were by still honing in on our defense. We talked about playing Creighton, a team that uses the three-point line to their advantage and we wanted to take away that. First half, I think they made two [three pointers] and in the second half they made two [three pointers]. Mission accomplished on that part of it, but the other part is you have to play defense. … We just had a lot of guys step up and make plays for us. … Damien [Sears] comes in and gives us a credible force inside. When you get 23 assists in a game of this magnitude, against a team such as Creighton, that tells you you’re sharing the basketball. …. Great crowd, great whiteout, shoutout to our students and our fans. It was a great, great atmosphere.”
On if it was the breakout performance he had been expecting…
“It’s good to see us put 40 minutes together. Even as they came back and they took the lead our guys didn’t waiver. We continued to do what we were doing. I thought fatigue was a factor there in the end. Our guys continued to make the right plays defensively and offensively. … I hope it’s a sign of things coming together. This is the time you want things to come together. We have multiple guys that are playing well. Greg Williams was phenomenal today. He was just in a zone. The thing I love about it is those guys trusted each other. You had two guys get double-doubles. … Rasheem [Dunn] finished with double figures in scoring and assists. He’s come a long way. This guy can score and now he’s making that extra pass. … David [Caraher], he may not get mentioned from the scoring standpoint, but David was very big for us today. LJ [Figueroa], look at LJ, double-double with 12 rebounds, all defensive rebounds. I went small ball this time and he was big. He hit some big, big shots for us. It was a good team win. … Even our walk-on, [Justin] Cole, he gets out there and gives us a deflection, a stop and then he makes a bucket. We needed him because we had some guys in foul trouble and guys needed rest.”
On Greg Williams’ performance…
“He’s been making shots and he’s in the starting lineup for a reason. Teams have to honor him. Teams are backing off of him and he’s playing with a lot more confidence. … His confidence is at an all-time high. Today, he was in the zone. The beauty of that is when a guy’s in a zone you find him and he delivered. We needed it big time.”
On the team’s perimeter defense…
“Our guys take pride on defense and they were really out there on the shooters. [Creighton has] guys who can make it from 30 feet, so we were guarding at least 35 feet out. You have to be with them and make them uncomfortable. Our defense was really good. … We weren’t going to give up the threes. … I was proud of our guys. That was one of our more complete games thus far. There are some things we can clean up, but we shot the ball well and I like how we shared the basketball. I like how we competed defensively. Every loose ball it seemed like we came up with it and we did it for 40 minutes.”
St. John’s Guard/Forward LJ Figueroa
On defeating a nationally ranked opponent…
“Ranked or unranked, it feels good to get a win, especially on our home court in front of our fans. The team has been going through a lot. Mustapha [Heron] has been out. … We’ve been going through a lot so it feels to get this win.”
On the key to performing at this level…
“We had our gas on the pedal. We just kept executing. Rasheem [Dunn] did a great job pushing the ball. We did a great job on getting stops and not letting their shooters shoot. Creighton’s a very good shooting team. I think we did a great job running them off the three-point line. [Damien] Jefferson kept getting buckets around the basket. We tried to hold him off but I think our guys did a pretty good job guarding the three-point line and executed on offense.”
On if this was the best game of the season…
“I think it’s one of the best team games we’ve played in the BIG EAST this season. I feel like everybody contributed on the offensive and defensive side. Our guys were into it. We came out with the win and we’re going to try and keep it rolling.”
St. John’s Guard Greg Williams Jr.
On his seven 3-pointers…
“My teammates were just finding me. When we go and play for each other, play together, things like that can happen. When you find a hot hand it carries through. I thank my teammates for just finding me and just locating me in those situations.”
On if this was the performance the team has been waiting for…
“Definitely. That’s why those losses that we took hurt so bad because we know that we work hard every day, and for it to slip away sometimes it hurts us. To come out with [the win] it was really encouraging. It lets us know that we are capable of doing that.”
On defending the three-point line today…
“We were just causing chaos and that’s what we do. It makes people uncomfortable. We’re not going to change what we do. Pressuring the ball and getting after it makes people uncomfortable.”
On the atmosphere in Carnesecca Arena…
“I loved it. The fans came through and had Carnesecca [Arena] jumping. They are the sixth man and they helped us out today.”
Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott
“St. John’s was terrific. Obviously, they shot the ball at an incredibly high level. I thought for the most part we handled the pressure, only having seven turnovers against them again, usually that’s a recipe for success, but when you get outscored by 30 on the three point line in somebody else’s building, it’s hard to win. Credit to them, [Greg] Williams really stepped up, had an incredible game. We had some decent looks at the basket from guys that are shooting a really high percentage on the year and today they didn’t go in. All the credit to St. John’s, they were really good today.”
On how St. John’s played differently today than in games past…
“Outside of LJ [Figueroa] and Mustapha [Heron], I think the rest of the team was shooting 25% from the three-point line in conference play. That’s quite a difference.”
On the difficulty of guarding St. John’s…
“They’ve got some guys that are electric off the dribble that you’ve got to provide a little bit of help or they’re going to get to the rim, especially when they play that smaller lineup without [Josh] Roberts. Obviously, he got hurt so he didn’t play much, but they can really spread you out with [Julian] Champagnie and [Marcellus] Earlington pulling your bigs away from the basket. There was a couple of guys we were okay stepping off of and daring them to shoot the shot, that’s kind of what we did at our place. It was successful there. Our plan today was to press up on those guys a little bit better. Obviously, we failed miserably in that regard. I felt like they’re really sound offensively. The ball doesn’t stick very long. There’s great ball movement. There’s great player movement. There’s great pace to what they do in transition. I said it when we played in Omaha, I’ve played against Coach Anderson’s teams before, so I’m not surprised. He’s a ball coach. He knows what he’s doing. He’s got them playing the right way. He’s laying the foundation for what I think are going to be some really good days ahead for St. John’s.”
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