The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team picked up its first BIG EAST win in convincing fashion on Sunday, taking down Georgetown, 94-83, inside Carnesecca Arena.
Greg Williams Jr. scored a career-high 26 points to lead five Johnnies in double figures. The junior guard from Lafayette, La., went 7-for-12 from the floor and connected on four of his six tries from long range. He also sank a career-high eight free throws.
Julian Champagnie scored 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting, making four of his eight attempts from beyond the arc and all four of his free throw tries. Champagnie, who leads the BIG EAST in free throw shooting at 88.9 percent on the season, fell one rebound shy of his fourth double-double and matched a career high with four assists. Champagnie, the BIG EAST’s leading scorer heading into the evening, eclipsed the 20-point plateau for the fourth time in eight tries this season.
Vince Cole returned to the starting lineup after a one-game absence and registered 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes of action. Isaih Moore added 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting while Posh Alexander chipped in 10 points, three assists and three steals.
Arnaldo Toro made his first start as a Johnnie, finishing with five boards and three assists in 19 minutes. Marcellus Earlington tallied five points, three rebounds and two assists.
The Red Storm had five players in double figures for just the third time in the past two seasons, but the second time in the span of just one week against Georgetown. Williams and Champagnie became the first Johnnies to score 20 or more points in the same game this season.
As a team, St. John’s, which set new season highs for 3-pointers made (13) and 3-point field goal percentage (44.8%), assisted on 19 of its 30 field goals, surrendered only nine turnovers and shot 80.8 percent (21-of-26) from the charity stripe.
Georgetown connected on each of its first three field goal attempts, two of which were from deep, to take a quick 8-2 lead less than two minutes into the contest.
Facing that early deficit, the Johnnies turned it on, using an 18-4 run to move ahead by eight, 20-12, with just over six minutes gone in the game. Champagnie scored eight points on the tear, hitting a pair of threes and a driving layup.
The Red Storm continued to drain shots from deep over the next few minutes, pulling ahead by as many as 16, 39-23, with five minutes to play in the half following triples from Earlington, Cole and Champagnie. Champagnie’s last triple capped an 8-for-12 start from downtown for the Johnnies.
Georgetown outscored the Red Storm 13-5 over the next three minutes, trimming the St. John’s lead back down to single digits, 44-36, with 2:02 left until the break. The two teams traded buckets the rest of the way and the Red Storm took a 49-31 edge into the locker room.
St. John’s connected on 10 of their 19 3-point attempts in the first half, matching a single-game season high in just 20 minutes of play.
The St. John’s lead appeared to be in trouble at the start of the second half, as the Johnnies missed their first seven field goal attempts of the period and watched Georgetown slice their cushion to two, 51-49, after an 8-0 run with four and a half minutes gone in the half.
Williams stopped the bleeding with the Johnnies’ first 3-pointer of the half before a 2-for-2 trip to the line from Champagnie pushed the St. John’s edge back to seven, 56-49, with 13:52 to play.
Leading 60-54 with just over 12 minutes to go, St. John’s unleashed an 18-4 run to all but put the game out of reach, giving the home side a 20-point edge, 78-58, with 7:24 remaining. Moore scored seven of his 12 points during that span while Alexander added six of his 10.
The Johnnies’ lead never dipped below 11 in the closing minutes of the contest.
The Red Storm is not scheduled to play another game in 2020, as the team will take some time off for the holidays before returning to action against DePaul on Jan. 2 at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“We finally put a game together for the most part. We came out, changed the lineup a little bit, and along with making shots, you need to have good spacing and ball movement and I believe we did that in the first half. We had 12 assists on 17 field goals made, and that means you are sharing the basketball, and I thought that translated to the defensive end. We ended up giving up 41 points in the first half and I thought that was a bit too much, but we came out in the second half and I thought we stepped up and continued to play a better brand of defense. I thought our defense was much better. We had some guys with good nights, too. Of course, [Julian Champagnie], he has been pretty consistent, I thought Vince [Cole] was much more assertive, and you saw Greg [Williams Jr.] doing the things he has to do. I also can’t say enough about Posh [Alexander], he continues to bring it every night. Plus, our bench, I thought that Marcellus [Earlington], we saw him, and I thought he put a complete game together for himself. It was a good team win and a good way for these guys to go home and get a break. They have been going for four or five months straight and with that being said, they need to continue what they have been doing here.”
On why the team played better today than over the last few games…
“I thought we were connected. I thought we were connected defensively. We didn’t come out with the understanding that we were going to beat people with our offense, and I thought that was the difference in the game. We came out with a defensive mindset, trusting in one another and sometimes you have those setbacks in order to have some comebacks. We had an opportunity to have a socially-distanced meeting to make sure that everyone was on the same page and to go out and play for one another. I give credit to our guys for understanding that the games we have played up until this point, they have been learning situations and in order to be the team we want to be, we have to play together and trust each other. We have to be connected defensively and you have been seeing us not being connected recently and it translates to offense, the same thing where we get stagnant. But tonight, you saw a much better flow both defensively and offensively.
On the changes to the starting lineup…
“I was looking for Vince [Cole] to be more selfish. We know what Vince is capable of doing. I believe he was much more aggressive offensively and more engaged defensively. He had three defensive rebounds in the first half. Some guys, when they come off the bench, they just try and fit in, and I want him to do more than that because he has that kind of talent.”
On the play of Greg Williams Jr. in big situations…
“He is one of the more experienced players on our basketball team, so that is him just being more assertive and to me, he is one of our captains so with that being said, it is the evolution of a guy stepping up and being what we want him to become. When you listen and talk to him, he is really sharp, and it is starting to translate on the floor as well.”
On the team’s response to having the lead cut to two in the second half…
“I thought we grew up today. We have been in those situations and you guys have seen it where we have been up and down. Seven days ago down at their place, we were up five with under three minutes to go and they threw a little press on us and we threw it all over the yard. We were fortunate to get it into overtime and they ended up winning the game, but tonight they did the same thing, and our guys were in attack mode. They stayed together, we stayed in attack mode, got the balls in the hands of the ball-handlers and stayed in attack mode. I thought Isaih [Moore] came off the bench and gave us some big minutes offensively and defensively, and we are going to be a team where multiple guys have to give us something each and every game.”
On whether this was a “must-win” game…
“Every game is a must-win game. I think every game is a big game. As a coach, you always want to see your guys improve and the improvement tonight, to me, was we got off to a good start, made shots, were connected defensively and obviously we faced some adversity in a game of runs. Both teams made runs, but we learned our lessons from earlier games by staying in the moment and waiting for the next play. I think that every game is a big game.”
Junior guard Greg Williams Jr.
On the importance of the team’s start to the game…
“I think it was very important. We wanted to keep the pressure on and keep on playing how we are capable of playing, keep the tempo up, and just find guys that are open by making the right play.”
On what he saw in the slow start to the second half…
“I think we learned a little bit about our basketball team as Coach Mike [Anderson] likes to say. I think that we responded to adversity, but they made a run, they came back, but then we went on our run and kept it going. So, I think that it was a step in the right direction.”
On the team’s focus…
“We just played together, we played for each other. We played with a lot of trust that led to a lot of good things.”
On why the team played more together today…
“We all just had a common understanding of what needed to be done. I think that the trust and connectivity was good, and it just came from us talking about it and just trying to figure it out.”
On going through the first portion of the BIG EAST schedule without a win…
“I think we just had to figure out what we needed to do and playing how we are capable of playing. There a lot of great teams in the conference, so we definitely have to step up to the plate every night.”