After topping No. 3/3 Villanova for its fifth straight win on Wednesday, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team will return to action this weekend in Providence when it meets the Friars on Saturday at Alumni Hall.
The 117th meeting between the Red Storm and the Friars will tip at 2 p.m. on FS1 and 570 AM WMCA. Eric Collins and Danny Manning will call the game on television while John Minko and Brandon Tierney will narrate the action over the airwaves. The Learfield-IMG College Red Storm Sports Network radio broadcast will also be available through TuneIn Radio, as well as SiriusXM channel 388 and streamed through channel 978.
St. John’s (12-7, 6-6 BIG EAST) has been playing its best basketball of the season, rattling off five straight wins and emerging victorious in six of its last seven overall. The win on Wednesday over the third-ranked Wildcats marked the Johnnies’ second ranked victory in their last five games and the highest rated win of the Mike Anderson Era. The Red Storm had last defeated a top-five opponent in February of 2018, when it took down No. 4 Duke and No. 1 Villanova in a span of just four days. Prior to Wednesday, the last time the Red Storm had defeated a top-three opponent on campus was all the way back in 1966, when Sonny Dove tallied 28 points and 24 rebounds in a win over No. 3 Saint Joseph’s during Lou Carnesecca’s first season as head coach.
On their first four-game BIG EAST winning streak since 2014-15, a win on Saturday would give the Johnnies their first five-game winning streak in conference play since the 2013-14 squad rattled off six straights victories to start the month of February. The Red Storm last won four consecutive BIG EAST road games during the 1998-99 season, a campaign that ended with a trip to the Elite Eight.
The key behind the Red Storm’s turnaround has been its defense. In their first 12 games of the season (6-6), the Johnnies surrendered 80.8 points per game on average, including 86.2 points per game against BIG EAST opponents. In the seven games since (6-1), the Red Storm is allowing just 68.3 points per game and has twice held a team to fewer than 60 points. The Wildcats scored just 59 on Wednesday, 20 points below their season average and 12 fewer than their previous season-low.
Recently, the Johnnies have done well to limit their opponents from deep. In the first 12 games of the year, the Red Storm allowed the other team to shoot 38.5 percent from downtown. On St. John’s current seven-game tear, the opposition is hitting at a rate of just 30.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Posh Alexander put another line on his resume for BIG EAST Freshman of the Year on Wednesday, tallying game highs of 16 points, six assists and three steals. Alexander has scored 15 or more points in each of the team’s last five games, averaging team highs of 16.8 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 steals during that stretch. On the season, St. John’s is 9-2 when Alexander finishes in double figures, including each of the team’s last seven wins. Through games played on Thursday, Alexander leads the BIG EAST and ranks seventh nationally with 2.74 steals per contest.
Fellow Brooklyn native Julian Champagnie appeared to be heading for an “off-night” in the early going on Wednesday, scoring no points and grabbing four boards in the first half. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Champagnie had his fifth double-double of the year, finishing with 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Saturday’s game will pit the top two scorers in the league against one another, as Champagnie leads the BIG EAST at 19.5 points per game while Providence’s David Duke ranks second with 17.9 per outing.
The Red Storm has also been receiving key contributions of late from a pair of former NJCAA All-Americans. After reaching double figures just twice in his first nine BIG EAST games, Vince Cole has done so in three straight conference contests, going for a team-high 18 points at DePaul before tallying 10 at Marquette and 12 against Villanova. Over his last four games, Cole is shooting 52.2 percent (12-of-23) from three-point range. Isaih Moore has been one of the Red Storm’s most efficient players over the last four games, averaging 10.3 points on 73.9 percent shooting in just 15.8 minutes per contest. The Columbia, S.C., native is 16-of-19 (84.2%) from inside the three-point arc during that stretch.
Providence (9-9, 5-7 BIG EAST) welcomes the Red Storm on the heels of back-to-back BIG EAST losses. Last Saturday in Washington D.C., the Friars dropped a one-point decision to Georgetown when a potential game-tying free throw rimmed out with one second to go. A few days later at home against Seton Hall, the Friars scored just 43 points in a 17-point defeat.
In addition to David Duke’s 17.9 points per game, senior big man Nate Watson averages 17.2 points and a team-high 6.8 boards per contest. A third upperclassman, A.J. Reeves, pours in 9.6 points per outing.
This season, Providence is playing all of its home games at Alumni Hall on campus for the first time since the 1971-72 campaign. St. John’s competed in the last game at Alumni Hall on March 2, 1972, before the Friars moved full-time to the Providence Civic Center (now Dunkin’ Donuts Center).
The Friars are the third most frequently played program in St. John’s history, as the two teams have met 116 times since the 1926-27 season. The Red Storm leads the all-time series 62-54 after splitting the regular season series a year ago. St. John’s has not won in Providence since Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds combined for 48 points in a 91-86 victory on Jan. 25, 2017.
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