Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year Marcus Zegarowski scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting to lead No. 9/9 Creighton past St. John’s, 94-76, inside Carnesecca Arena on Thursday night.
Zegarowski led five Creighton players in double figures, as the Bluejays shot 57 percent from the floor and connected on 13 of their 23 3-piont attempts.
The Red Storm (5-4, 0-3 BIG EAST) pulled within two points on three separate occasions early in the second half, but a 22-4 run midway through the period helped Creighton (5-2, 1-1 BIG EAST) pull away.
The BIG EAST’s leading scorer heading into the evening, Julian Champagnie recorded a team-high 17 points thanks to a career-high five made 3-pointers. The Brooklyn native also grabbed a team-best five boards.
Freshman guard Posh Alexander finished with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with three assists.
Making his first start since the season opener, Rasheem Dunn tallied 10 points, seven assists and no turnovers in 34 minutes of action.
Dylan Addae-Wusu recorded the highest scoring total of his young career, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
St. John’s was outrebounded by a 44-26 margin on the evening, as Christian Bishop and Damien Jefferson grabbed 10 boards apiece. Jefferson also fell just shy of a triple-double with 10 points and eight assists.
The Bluejays put on a shooting clinic to start the game, making nine of their first 13 shots, including five straight 3-pointers, to take a 28-12 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
From there, Creighton started missing and St. John’s began to slowly eat into the Bluejays’ lead. Five points from Champagnie kickstarted an 18-5 run, bringing the Johnnies within three, 33-30, on a Dunn midrange jumper with 3:22 to go in the half.
The teams traded buckets over the next few minutes before four straight points to close the half gave the Bluejays a 41-34 lead at the intermission.
The Red Storm scored five straight points out of the break on an Alexander drive and a Greg Williams Jr. trey to get within two, but Zegarowski responded with back-to-back triples to make it in eight-point game.
Champagnie quickly answered with two 3-pointers of his own, drawing the Johnnies back within two, 49-47, with 15:16 to play.
Trailing by that same two-point margin, 52-50, with 14:25 to go, St. John’s saw Creighton uncork a 22-4 run over the next eight minutes to put the game out of reach.
The Red Storm returns to action on Sunday when it hosts Georgetown at Carnesecca Arena for the first time since 1981.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“First of all, Creighton is one of the higher ranked teams and we saw on display the reason why. They are a team that can flat-out shoot the basketball. We got into a big hole early in the game. I think we were down 28-10 or something like that and fought our way back to make it a seven-point game at halftime, but you have got to make shots. I thought in the second half the game was still in the balance, and we kept in it. Then, we had a few key possessions and we got into that point in the game where you have to get over the hump and we didn’t get over it. Again, let’s credit Creighton, they’re a good basketball team and I thought our guys got knocked down and fought back pretty well, then got knocked down again and Creighton was able to get the win. You have got to give them credit. Our guys didn’t fold their tent, and they could have easily done that, so we have just got to keep building. It was a tough loss because it was our first BIG EAST game at home, but we have just got to get better. We have to watch film and get better.”
On the defense…
“We are still trying to get the “blue collar” out of our basketball team. Our guys last year, they took pride in their defense. Truth be told, we have got some of the same guys and we just need to get them all connected. But we also have a few new guys and all it takes is one weak link, and in our case tonight it was more than one. But we have just got to keep working at it. Like I said, one of the things our guys were talking about doing was trimming down the field goal percentage of teams and in the second half, they had a lot of easy opportunities. We have just got to get the mentality where we focus on defense, and that is something that we have to continue to work at.”
On who impressed him despite the loss…
“I thought Dylan [Addae-Wusu] came in and gave us some really good minutes. I thought when we went down, we got into the grittiness of defending and making them take tough shots. We were also able to rebound the basketball, I think we had a lot of offensive rebounds early in the game. But I thought Dylan gave us some good minutes, I thought [Arnaldo] Toro gave us some good minutes off the bench and that is a key, developing our bench. That has to be a focal point of our basketball team.”
On where the game turned…
“We had opportunities. At one point, we had a fast break and an open layup, and we kick it back out and bobbled the ball. We just didn’t execute when we needed to, and that has kind of been the story of our season up until this point. When you get into certain points of the game where you really need to execute, we needed to attack the basket and open up shots for guys from the outside. I don’t know if we got tired, but we didn’t score for a while and eventually, they are going to score. I thought [Marcus] Zegarowski ended up taking over at that point. He made a couple of threes and it opened up the game a little bit more for them.”
On the importance of Sunday’s game vs. Georgetown…
“They all are big games. I think all games are big games, that’s how I look at it anyway. We are into the 12th game of the season, and we want to take it home without a doubt. It’s a team we just lost to in overtime, so it’s a team we are familiar with and they are familiar with us. So, we will let this one marinate and hurt until midnight, and then we will get ready for Georgetown on Sunday.”
Redshirt senior guard Rasheem Dunn
On what is missing defensively…
“I feel like we’re still trying to get to know each other, as far as playing with each other. On the defensive end, like I said, we got to get to know one another and we just have to talk a little bit. As you can see, Creighton had 14 second chance points, and I feel like that comes with toughness and talking on and off the ball. I feel like today, we brought it for a little bit but didn’t do it for a full 40 minutes and that just goes a long way. Bringing new people in and everyone still trying to play with each other, going down the stretch, we are still young and learning.”
On creating dribble penetration…
“Creighton is very good defensive team. They play the pack line defense where we could drive and kick, that’s what we could do. When teams playing pack line defense you don’t really want to force anything, but you got to get a great shot rather than putting anything up just because of how they are defending us.”
On why the team has started slowly in games…
“Mostly on the defensive end as far as us not communicating as much as we should, but as the season goes on, that will get better. Today, as you can see, there’s a lot of drive and kicks, us getting beat off the ball, and them driving and kicking to open threes. So, it just goes along with communicating and everyone being on the same page.”
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