After watching his team’s 21-point lead dwindle down to two in the final minute, Julian Champagnie came up with some late-game heroics for the Red Storm on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, sealing an 88-86 win over Marquette to close out the regular season.
The freshman from Brooklyn scored the team’s final field goal of the afternoon, laying in an offensive rebound to put the Johnnies up seven, 87-80, with 1:17 to go. Trailing by two following a few clutch shots form Sacar Anim, Marquette regained possession down by two with 11 seconds to play. All-American Markus Howard brought the ball into the front court with a clear lane to the basket and a shot send the game into overtime. Champagnie slid into the paint and stripped the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year, giving St. John’s the ball back with less than three seconds to go and all but assuring the Red Storm a victory.
Champagnie registered his fourth double-double of the campaign, posting 21 points and a season-high 12 boards. The reigning BIG EAST Freshman of the Week, who scored 23 at Butler on Wednesday, also tallied two blocks and a pair of steals. He shot 7-for-16 from the floor, including a 2-for-5 effort from deep.
Greg Williams Jr., who also made a key defensive effort in the final seconds of the contest, finished in double figures for the fourth straight game, netting 17 points to go along with four steals and three assists. Williams came up with a steal as time expired following two missed St. John’s free throws to eliminate a last-second chance for Marquette. The sophomore from Lafayette, La., made six of his 10 field goal tries, including two of his four attempts from beyond the arc.
Suiting up in a Division I game for the 129th time on Saturday afternoon, Nick Rutherford scored more points than he had in any of his previous 128 appearances. The Indianapolis native registered a career-high 19 points and six assists on Senior Day, sinking seven of his 10 field goal tries and two of his three attempts from downtown.
LJ Figueroa was one of four Johnnies to finish in double figures, logging 15 points, three assists and three steals.
As a team, St. John’s shot 56.7 percent in the first half and went 7-for-12 (58.3%) from three-point range. The Johnnies managed to hang on despite shooting 38.7 percent from the floor, 20.0 percent from deep and 53.6 percent from the line (15-of-28) in the second stanza.
The Red Storm forced Marquette into 20 turnovers, 14 of which came in the first half. The Johnnies, who recorded 10 of their 12 steals before the break, converted those 20 Golden Eagle miscues into 27 points.
St. John’s (16-15, 5-13 BIG EAST) has now finished with a winning record in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2013-14 and 2014-15. The Johnnies wrap the regular season tied for eighth in the conference standings with Georgetown and will open up the BIG EAST Tournament as the no. 9 seed against the Hoyas on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
The Red Storm could not have envisioned a better start to the contest, making four of its first five field goal attempts and forcing turnovers on five of Marquette’s first six possessions to take a 12-0 lead with less than three minutes gone in the game.
The Johnnies’ lead was short-lived, as Marquette scored the game’s next 12 points to tie the score at the 12:35 mark of the period. Howard sank two 3-pointers during the spurt.
Trailing for the first time, 16-14, the Johnnies uncorked their second big run of the afternoon, making 12 of their next 13 field goal tries and pulling ahead by as many as 21, 45-24, with 1:42 to go in the half.
The Red Storm, which ended the run with 10 straight made field goals, received eight points from Rutherford and five apiece from Champagnie and Williams on the spurt. Defensively, St. John’s forced seven Marquette turnovers during the 31-8 run spanning just over eight minutes.
Trailing by 19 at the intermission, Marquette began to find success from deep at the start of the second half, hitting four early 3-pointers to pull within 12, 55-43, with just over four minutes gone in the period.
The Johnnies answered with a 7-0 run, pushing the lead back to 19, 64-43, on a Williams tip-in slam just a minute and a half later. The Golden Eagles quickly responded with a 7-0 spurt of their own, whittling the deficit back to 12 with 12:27 to go.
Marquette cut the lead to single digits for the first time with just under eight minutes to go and pulled within four, 78-74, on a Howard three with 3:53 to play.
A Howard layup with 2:41 remaining made it a one-possession game, 83-80, for the first time since the 7:30 mark of the first half.
St. John’s bumped its advantage back to seven, 87-80, with 1:17 to go following consecutive buckets from Rasheem Dunn and Champagnie.
Anim drained a triple on the next possession before Figueroa went 1-for-2 from the line, giving the Johnnies a five-point lead, 88-83, with 53 seconds to play. Anim then made three the old-fashioned way on the Golden Eagles’ next possession, bringing Marquette within two, 88-86, with 44 seconds remaining.
The Red Storm ran down the shot clock before a Rutherford three-point attempt fell off target, giving Marquette the ball, down two, with 11 seconds to go. Champagnie then came away with his decisive strip of Howard on the ensuing possession, all but sealing the St. John’s victory.
The Johnnies and Georgetown will open BIG EAST Tournament play against one another for the third time in the last four years on Wednesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on FS1. The Red Storm will look to avenge a pair of regular season losses to the Hoyas (15-16, 5-13 BIG EAST).
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“We’ve been in many games [this season] like the one this afternoon and it came down to making plays. You are looking at two guys [Julian Champagnie and Greg Williams Jr.] that made some plays going down the stretch that were big plays. … Julian came up with a steal when [Markus] Howard went to the basket with us up two points. We came up with [the loose ball] and go to the free throw line with three seconds left and we miss two free throws. Now they have a chance to heave it and this guy [Greg Williams Jr.] deflects the pass and game over. Those are the plays we haven’t been making so it was good to see us make plays. Even as Marquette made runs I thought we answered. Rasheem [Dunn], a guy that hasn’t practiced in two days, he’s been under the weather, he played on shear guts. We needed everybody to come out and play for us. The layup [Rasheem Dunn] made was huge when [Marquette] tied it up. It was a good team win to finish [off the regular-season] and now we get ready for the next one.”
On team’s play heading into BIG EAST Tournament…
“We have more pieces playing well. When you look at these two guys here [Julian Champagnie and Greg Williams Jr.], they are playing with great confidence. … They are playing more meaningful minutes. Look at what Marcellus [Earlington] is bringing to the table. I thought LJ [Figueroa] was good today and look at the bench. Guys came in and gave us quality minutes. David [Caraher] played really well and gave us some big moments. Even Justin Cole, we put him out there and guess what, the lead went up again.”
On team’s improvement…
“They’re trusting one another defensively and offensively. They’re fixing things on defense. They are playing a little bit more instinctive and a lot freer on offense. Even when Marquette made their run you saw Nick Rutherford going to the basket like a warrior and making great passes. … We’ve become a much smarter team, but we still have to make free throws down the stretch and it will sure take a lot of stress off of the coach. At the end of the day, they’ve gotten better from non-conference [play] to the beginning of conference [play] to where we are right now and it’s much needed because we are getting ready to jump into the BIG EAST Tournament. I told [the team] ‘I am so proud of them’ because even with all the adversity, all the close games, they’ve stayed together and that says it all.”
On the team’s senior class…
“I told them in the locker room these are the guys that have laid the foundation for what is going to continue to come for St. John’s basketball. I think they’ve given people glimpses of [40 minutes of hell] and when we do get 40 I think it’s pretty good. It is an exciting brand of basketball. It was exciting today and obviously when you’re leading, it’s really exciting. … It just seemed like an electric atmosphere [at Madison Square Garden] and our guys are starting to embrace it.”
On the seniors…
“Mustapha [Heron] got hurt during the summer, but he worked hard to get back on the floor and I thought he has provided some leadership for our basketball team. We all know what type of basketball player he was and I appreciate that. Nick [Rutherford], a graduate student that came in and got better. I remember his first game, he had six or seven turnovers and he was throwing it in the stands, throwing it everywhere. You look at him now and you think is that really the same guy? It’s so refreshing to see guys develop right before your eyes. He has the leadership role in some aspects. If you watch our team, we win as Nick [Rutherford] and our guards go. He’s the igniter like the energizer bunny. He’s that guy that keeps going on and on and he doesn’t mind who he’s guarding. He guards [Seton Hall’s Myles] Powell, tried to guard [Marquette’s Markus] Howard today, so he’s meant a lot to our guys. Thomas [O’Connell], he was a lacrosse champion, but he brings something to our locker room. He brings a lot of wisdom to our locker room and these guys know he’s shared a lot of that wisdom with them in terms of how to win. Justin Cole, a guy that has seemed like he’s been here forever. I thought he was great in the Creighton game and made an impact. He got in today and made an impact. Those seniors, I’m sure they’re going to have a lot of memories, but they set the foundation moving forward.“
St. John’s guard Greg Williams Jr.
On the decisive end of game steal…
“I just saw an opportunity and took it. I came up with the ball and did what I needed to do to get the W.”
On team’s play…
“I think we are trusting each other more and playing for each other. Like I said the game before, when we do things like that, it’s hard to play against us.”
On playing for Head Coach Mike Anderson…
“The main thing is playing with effort. I feel like talent goes a long way, but when you play with effort and when other people don’t have it, it’s hard to play against that. Playing with effort is something you can’t teach, you just have to find within.”
St. John’s forward Julian Champagnie
On his steal with three seconds left in the second half…
“It felt pretty good to make the play. When he was driving, I saw him [Marquette’s Markus Howard] leaning to the basket and he wasn’t going to pass it. I figured I would help and hedge off of a little bit and made the play.”
On team’s play…
“I think we are playing better basketball. As time goes on, we are going to get better and play as a unit.”
On playing for Head Coach Mike Anderson…
“Coach [Anderson] always talks about second and third effort, but for me, it’s on the defensive end of the court because some days coach says to us, ‘you can’t be only good at your jump shot.’ Some days it will go in and some days it’s not so when it comes to the defensive part of the game, he’s helped us get better at it.”
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