After seeing a 20-point lead dwindle down to just one in the final minute of play, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team used some clutch free throw shooting and a key defensive stop to hold off Boston College, 97-93, at Mohegan Sun Arena on Monday night.
Making his season debut after missing the first two games with a sprained ankle, Julian Champagnie showed no signs of rust. The sophomore from Brooklyn logged his third collegiate double-double, finishing with a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes of action. With the St. John’s lead down to three on Boston College’s final possession, Champagnie blocked a second-chance 3-pointer that could have tied the contest at 96. Dating back to last season, Champagnie has now scored 20 or more points in three of his last four games.
Freshman Posh Alexander had a first half for the ages, making all six of his field goal tries and scoring 16 of his 18 points in the opening stanza. The Brooklyn native also finished the game with five assists and four rebounds.
Greg Williams Jr. tallied 17 points, six assists and a pair of steals in a team-high 35 minutes of action, shooting 4-for-5 from the floor and 7-for-10 from the line. The Lafayette, La., native went 4-for-6 from the stripe in the final minute to help St. John’s close the game. As a team, St. John’s was 20-for-26 from the free throw line, marking the squad’s third game in as many tries this season making 20 or more free throws and shooting better than 75 percent.
Dylan Addae-Wusu also finished with six assists in addition to netting nine points on 2-of-3 shooting and a 4-for-5 effort from the line. As a team, St. John’s assisted on 22 of its 36 made baskets.
The team’s leading rebounder in the first two games of the season, Isaih Moore logged seven points and six boards in 19 minutes of action.
The Johnnies (3-0) had only scored more than 97 points once in their previous 72 meetings with former BIG EAST foe Boston College, a 114-92 win on March 11, 1965, in the opening game of the NIT, a tournament that St. John’s would go on to win in Joe Lapchick’s final year as head coach. The Red Storm now leads BC, the 10th most frequently played opponent in program history, 46-27 in the all-time series.
Since 2014-15, St. John’s is now 7-0 against opponents that were once in the BIG EAST but have since left for another conference.
Boston College (1-2) found it tough to miss in the early going, hitting six of its first eight shots and jumping ahead by as many as 10, 19-9, with five minutes gone in the contest.
From there, the Johnnies began to chip away, as a Marcellus Earlington bucket sparked an 8-1 run, pulling the Johnnies within three, 20-17, three and a half minutes later.
The Red Storm continued to claw at the Boston College advantage before tying the game at 29 on a Williams fast break dunk with 6:44 to go. Frederick Scott answered with a triple for the Eagles, but Alexander responded with one of his own, sparking a 13-0 St. John’s run and putting the Johnnies ahead by double digits with three minutes remaining in the half. Champagnie capped the spurt with back-to-back 3-pointers for the Red Storm.
Leading by 12 at the half, St. John’s used an 8-0 run to pull ahead by as many as 20, 75-55, with 13:15 to play. Williams, who has shown a penchant for highlight reel jams in the past, put an exclamation point on the sequence with a thunderous fast break dunk.
Over the next three and a half minutes, the Eagles scored 14 unanswered points, making six straight field goal tries and pulling within six, 75-69. St. John’s responded in kind with a 7-0 tear, as Champagnie scored four in a row before Addae-Wusu bumped the lead back to 13 with an old-fashioned three-point play.
The Red Storm led by 13 following an Earlington layup with 2:39 to play before Boston College unleashed a 10-0 run in a span of 90 seconds, making it a three-point game with just over a minute to go. The Eagles would trim the lead to a single point with 30 seconds remaining before a 2-for-2 trip to the line for Williams and Champagnie’s defensive heroics sealed the St. John’s victory.
St. John’s will remain inside Mohegan Sun’s “Bubbleville” for its next game, taking on BYU on Wednesday at 5 p.m. That game will air live nationally on ESPN2.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“It was a game of runs tonight, and I am glad that we had this guy [Julian Champagnie] next to me in this particular game. Boston College is a really good basketball team and they had already played a couple of games. I thought that they were in a better rhythm than we were and it was on display. In the first half, they went up ten points and we had to calm our guys down because a quick lead like that can evaporate really quick. True to form, our guys got solid defensively. I thought that we were good defensively, and then once we got off of our heels, I thought we really started being in attack mode against their defense. We were sharing the basketball and we weren’t turning the ball over. We did a good job of keeping them out of the lane. I thought that was one of their biggest strengths; getting into the lane and kicking out to open shooters or driving to the basket and getting to the free throw line, so it was a good performance. Our bench played well, guys that started played well, and we are trying to bring this guy [Julian Champagnie] along slowly, but I guess that slow isn’t a word for him. I thought he played well; I thought Posh [Alexander] led the charge. We had multiple guys that played well; Vince [Cole], Isaih [Moore], Dylan [Addae-Wusu] took two big charges out there. Arnaldo Toro does all of the little things, Marcellus [Earlington], so this team has a lot of pieces and I just want to keep them coming together.”
On Julian Champagnie’s return to the lineup and performance…
“I thought that Julian, once he got that ‘aha’ moment out, you know, he got a layup right under the basket and pushed it out, and he was thinking there. Once he got that out of his system, he started hitting shots right in the middle of their zone and we needed him today against that zone. Then came the confidence, but before Julian went down with an injury you could see that he really improved over the summer in a lot of different aspects of how to play and how to become one of the better players on our team. It doesn’t surprise me, and it was needed. Last year, he was playing with near double-doubles every night going down the stretch and it was a welcome sight to have him out there on the floor and he can get better.”
On how he has seen the team grow in close games from last year…
“I thought that with the way we played last year we could win a game like this, but I think that early on, probably not. So, I think that speaks volumes to the core guys we have that came back, and are leading this team and of course, with the new talent that we have in place. We are just trying to become the best team that we can be, and I am excited. It was an exciting game, it was up and down the floor and both teams were making good and bad plays, but I thought in the end it got interesting down the stretch. For us to be in these close games early, that says a lot about our basketball team and that is without our fifth-year senior Rasheem Dunn out there. So, we are doing it with guys that haven’t played at this level and they are stepping up to the challenge while learning as they go.
Sophomore forward Julian Champagnie
On how it felt to be back on the court …
“It felt good to get back out there with my teammates. I think the biggest thing for me was to be out there with my team and pull off a W.”
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