Preseason First Team All-BIG EAST selection Sandro Mamukelashvili scored a career-high 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting, recording nearly half of his team’s offensive output to lead Seton Hall past St. John’s, 77-68, on Friday evening at Prudential Center.
After trailing by as many as 12 in the opening minutes of the second half, St. John’s (5-2) whittled the deficit down to three on a pair of occasions, but the Pirates managed to answer each time.
Julian Champagnie led the way once again for St. John’s, registering 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go along with six rebounds and three blocks. Champagnie, who is averaging 22.4 points per game on the campaign, has now registered 20 or more points three times in five opportunities this season and five times in his last eight chances dating back to last year.
Champagnie led four Johnnies in double figures. Greg Williams Jr. scored 12 points in addition to dishing out three assists while Vince Cole scored 11 and Rasheem Dunn added 10 in his first appearance since suffering a concussion in the Red Storm’s season opener on Nov. 25.
Dylan Addae-Wusu led the Red Storm with six assists on the evening while surrendering just one turnover and collecting five rebounds.
St. John’s forced Seton Hall (4-3) into 15 turnovers, but converted those extra possessions into just 13 points.
The Red Storm attempted only 10 free throws, making six of those. Seton Hall went 20-of-28 from the charity stripe.
The Pirates jumped ahead in the early going, using an 11-3 run to move ahead by eight, 13-5, with seven minutes gone in the contest.
Trailing by 10 near the midway mark of the first half, the Johnnies uncorked a 12-2 run to tie the game at 23 on a Champagnie layup with 4:42 remaining until the intermission. The Brooklyn tallied six points on the spurt.
Leading by five, 35-30, at the break, Seton Hall scored the first six points on the latter stanza to move ahead by 11, 41-30, with just over a minute gone in the second half.
After trailing by as many as 12, St. John’s whittled its deficit down to three, 54-51, with 9:09 to play after Dunn scored six points on an 8-1 Red Storm run.
Seton Hall built its lead back to eight with five minutes to play, but the Red Storm cut the Pirates’ edge back down to three, 65-62, following four straight points from Champagnie with 3:07 remaining.
That was as close as St. John’s would get, however, as Seton Hall made the most of its free throw chances to end the game with a nine-point margin, 77-68.
The Red Storm will return to action on Sunday, traveling to Georgetown for a 7:30 p.m. matchup with the Hoyas on FS1.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“First game of conference play, we always talk about a sense of urgency and you could see it with Seton Hall tonight. They really came to play and went to their go-to guys. We had no answer for Sandro [Mamukelashvili], even as we made runs in the second half. In the first half, I thought the nerves were going. With that being said, it was a five-point game at halftime, but they came out and hit us early on in the second half, but to the credit of our guys they came together, fought, got it back down to three and even down the stretch, it was a five-point game and we had two bad possessions where we turned the ball over. The game came down to the free throw line, you know, it’s hard when a team shoots 28 free throws and you only shoot 10. We were already down in that category, so there’s the difference in the game between the free throw line and we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but let’s give them credit, they defended their home court.”
On the team’s approach to defending Sandro Mamukelashvili …
“I think we were probably most effective when we tried to keep the ball out of his hands. I thought that going down the stretch, we made their other guys make plays. He is a really good basketball player, he uses his angles well, and obviously he is 6”11 and very gifted, he played well. He is very talented, has a nice touch outside, has a good feel for the game. He played like a senior is supposed to. A guy that has those kinds of talents and they do a good job of utilizing him.”
On the team’s start to the second half…
“We didn’t execute. We didn’t do any of the things that we talked about. We got a stop early on, then of course, they had an out of bounds and got a dunk and rattled off four straight points and I looked up and it was 39-30 before we knew it. Then, we came down, took a quick shot looking for a nine-point shot and that is not going to happen, so they did what good teams need to do. They just took advantage of us coming out and I thought we were a little flat. We inserted some guys off of the bench and they gave us some energy. I thought Marcellus [Earlington] came in and gave us some great minutes off the bench, then you saw Rasheem [Dunn] come in and played like a fifth-year guy that has been around. He was still a little out of sync, but you saw his willpower and being an older guy, he helped us settle down a little bit. But I thought our defense picked up a little bit as well.
On the play of Julian Champagnie…
“I thought he played well, he was out there fighting and trying to win. He was leading our basketball team and played within himself, so again, we just have to get some better efforts from some other guys as well.”
On if they converted enough points off of turnovers…
“I mean, you always want to get more, but I just thought the rhythm of the game was their pace in the 1st half. In the 2nd half, I thought it picked up to our pace and then the whistles started and of course, now you’ve got free throws and that disrupts the rhythm of the game. I thought our defense pressured and on our end the pressure is not necessarily to steal the basketball. The pressure is so they don’t come down and pound with their size. They can just go get it if you allow them to do it. So no, I thought our defense was good, especially in the second half when we went down, I thought our guys doubled them deep and I thought we saw our guys create some chaos.”
On how Takal Molson affected the game for Seton Hall…
“He is a good player, he did a good job with attacking and getting to the free throw line. He is a versatile player.”
On if he wants to see Posh Alexander be more aggressive…
“I think aggressive from a standpoint of he can push tempo. We’ve got to be able to push tempo a little bit more. He is a freshman, he is fine.”
On the play of Rasheem Dunn…
“I think it’s important. I think what it does, it gives our backcourt a little bit more strength. Like I said, you have got to have some balance on your basketball team, you’ve got to have the forwards and you’ve got to have the guards. His experience alone will help our basketball team, even when we were down, if you look out there, he was the guy kind of leading the charge and once we get him going, we get Posh [Alexander] going, we continue to get Greg [Williams Jr.] to play at a high level, and then of course now you have Dylan [Addae-Wusu] playing well. When you get a contingent of guards like that, I think that we can be pretty good in that area, but the key is going to be consistency. Tonight, we shot 19% from the 3-point line and we had some open looks. We just have to get back in the gym, but without a doubt, Rasheem is going to impact this team.”
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