The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team remained undefeated at home against unranked opponents on Tuesday, snapping a two-game skid with a 69-57 wire-to-wire win over Butler at Carnesecca Arena.
The leading scorer in the BIG EAST, Julian Champagnie paced the Red Storm once again with 18 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals in 34 minutes of action. The sophomore from Brooklyn has finished in double figures 11 times in 11 tries this season and has scored 18 or more points seven times.
Champagnie and freshman guard Posh Alexander used some standout defense to key a crucial Red Storm run in the second half. Alexander finished with 10 points, four rebounds, three steals, two assists and just one turnover in 29 minutes.
Making his first appearance in the starting lineup since Dec. 11 and playing a season-high 23 minutes, Josh Roberts scored eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and a 2-for-3 effort from the charity stripe. The Troy, Ala., native also grabbed three boards and finished with a plus-minus rating of +13.
Rasheem Dunn scored seven points and grabbed four boards while tallying team highs with five assists and four steals.
Vince Cole registered eight points, six rebounds three assists and no turnovers while Marcellus Earlington added seven points and three rebounds in 16 minutes of action. Greg Williams Jr. scored six points despite being limited to just 16 minutes because of foul trouble.
Entering the game ranked 33rd nationally averaging just 11.1 turnovers per game, Butler coughed up a season-high 16 possessions against the Johnnies’ pressure defense. The Bulldogs’ 57 points set a season-low for a St. John’s opponent, as the Red Storm held butler to a 25.0 percent clip from beyond the arc (6-of-24).
St. John’s (7-6, 2-5 BIG EAST) improved to 6-1 in Queens on the year. Butler (3-7, 2-5 BIG EAST) remained winless away from Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The Johnnies scored the game’s first basket on a Dunn layup 52 seconds into the action and never relinquished the lead.
St. John’s found it hard to miss early, making seven of its first 11 field goal tries and jumping ahead by six, 18-12, following a pair of Champagnie treys with seven minutes gone in the game.
Butler pulled within one, 23-22, and the teams traded buckets over the next five minutes before St. John’s closed the half on a 9-0 run, capped by a 40-foot heave from Cole to beat the buzzer and give the Red Storm a 41-31 lead at the intermission.
Champagnie started the second half with five straight points for the Red Storm, helping the Johnnies build their cushion to as many as 13, 53-40, following a Dylan Addae-Wusu 3-point play with 13:31 to go.
Facing its biggest deficit of the evening, Butler rattled off an 11-2 run over the next four minutes, making seven straight shots and pulling within four, 55-51, with 9:23 remaining in the second half.
Following a Mike Anderson timeout, the next five minutes were all St. John’s, as the Red Storm answered with a 10-1 spurt of its own to build the lead back to 13 with just over four minutes to play. The run was anchored by some stellar defensive efforts, most notably three steals from Alexander and a highlight-reel block from Champagnie. In total, St. John’s forced six Butler turnovers on the tear.
St. John’s would not allow the lead to dip lower than nine the rest of the way, as the Red Storm closed out its fourth home win in its last five tries against the Bulldogs dating back to 2016.
The Red Storm will look to keep the Carnesecca Arena magic alive on Saturday when it welcomes Marquette to Queens for a 2 p.m. tip on FS1.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“I am proud of our guys. They started off the game well and came out with a defensive mindset. I thought that guys came off of the bench and gave us good minutes. It was a good team win.”
On the play of Josh Roberts…
“I think it is his time now. Josh [Roberts] has been patient. I think he has done a good job in practice of continuing to work and staying positive. It is his opportunity. You have to remember that Josh is one of the most experienced players that we have here, and I thought you saw that on display tonight. His athletic ability and presence out there was big for our basketball team. If you watched the team, you saw more guys who were connected defensively on the floor and I thought it allowed us to do some more things. Our defense was good, and we were able to push the ball down the floor, get in attack-mode, take good shots. Of course, [Julian Champagnie] continued to play at a high level and I think that teams are identifying him, but I thought guys did a nice job of attacking the basket. They got [Aaron] Thompson in foul trouble, and that was big in this particular game.”
On Posh Alexander’s play defensively…
“I think it is instinctual in him. We have been emphasizing our defense. We changed tonight and went to more of a zone and it allowed us to do some different things and have help defense, so he was able to ratchet it up and he has a good nose for the ball. They got a little careless with the ball and he used his quickness and instinct to get us some steals.”
On whether Josh Roberts will remain in the starting lineup…
“As I said earlier, Josh [Roberts] has stayed true and continued to work and work and it is his time. It is his time, and I am sure he will take it. He was a difference-maker in this game.”
On whether the team stepped into its identity tonight defensively…
“Our DNA is going to be our defense, and if our defense is consistent each and every night, we are going to be in ball games. Now, you add in offense and we start making shots, and that is what takes us to a different level. But the defense is what has been missing, we have been scoring but we haven’t been stopping anybody. Let’s see if we can get that balance where we are stopping people and having a chance to score at the other end. That is what teams strive for, so it was good to see our guys take the initiative defensively and say, “We are going to stop Butler tonight, we are going to make it difficult,” and we made some plays to get the win.”
On the importance of a good start tonight…
“I thought it was important. I thought defensively, as Julian [Champagnie] said, we stepped into our identity and you could see it. Our defense made Butler uncomfortable, and they had some guys who played a lot of minutes. So, when you talk about going down the stretch and those plays we made, sometimes fatigue is a part of that. Those passes get slower, you aren’t aware of people around you, and I thought that we saw that on display. Again, I thought it was important to come out and establish defensively how we wanted to play. From a pace standpoint, 41 points against Butler in the first half was pretty good, because they keep people low, and we found a way to win.”
Sophomore forward Julian Champagnie
On Josh Roberts play defensively…
“It’s funny you say that because we were just in the locker room and we were talking about how if he didn’t play in that game we wouldn’t have won. My player of the game is Josh [Roberts] one hundred percent, so I feel like him on the defensive end of the court was phenomenal.”
On his block that led to a late bucket …
“Well, we had watched film on [Butler] before the game and I had seen he had dunked on someone like that before and that couldn’t be me, that’s what was going through my mind. I know that when teams get plays like that, they go on runs. In that particular moment, I had to contest his shot because if he would’ve made that dunk they would’ve went on a run, that’s just how basketball works.”
On whether tonight’s game was reminiscent of last year’s team…
“I mean, it did feel a lot like last year, but in the same sense this is not last year’s team. So, in my eyes, I feel like this is just the same team we were playing with last week and the week before. It’s just us stepping into our identity and everybody locking in, understanding their roles, understanding this is not an offensive team this is a defensive team and whoever may score that night may score that night and that’s just what it comes down to. It did feel a little bit like last year, but I am glad to say that it also felt like this year’s team.”
On what Coach Anderson said to the team when the lead was cut to four…
“Coach [Mike Anderson] kept it brief and short the same as every time out, he just tells us to pick it up that’s kind of his way to us to get it going, to just pick it up. It’s not like we don’t know what we have to do, we all play basketball we all have IQ, that’s how we got here. He just tells us to pick it up and we pick it up. Obviously, we go over other schemes and plays on offense, but the defensive end its pretty much up to us and we have to keep it up.”
On the mindset defensively after last game…
“We are tired of losing, that’s what it comes down to, we’re just tired of losing. The difference between Saturday and today’s game is that we were getting fed up with losing and we wanted to buckle down on the defensive end and we want to win games. So, if that’s what it takes when we hold teams to  points, or whatever it may be, we might not have a high scoring game, and that is fine as long as we come out with the W.”
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