The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team continued its stretch of stellar play on Saturday, extending its winning streak to six and pushing past Providence, 92-81, inside Alumni Hall.
The Red Storm (13-7, 7-6 BIG EAST) has won five consecutive BIG EAST games for the first time since the debut year of the realigned conference in 2013-14. Four of those league wins have come on the road, marking the first time since 1998-99 that the Red Storm has rattled off four consecutive BIG EAST wins away from New York City. That season, the Johnnies reached the Elite Eight.
Ahead by as many as 17 in the first half, St. John’s saw its lead disappear and Providence climb in front by five in the early minutes of the second stanza. The resilient Red Storm responded with a 20-3 spurt over the next eight minutes, helping the Johnnies regain a double-digit lead that it would not surrender.
As a team, St. John’s shot 58.6 percent (34-of-58) from the floor and 52.6 percent (10-of-19) from three-point range, both of which set single-game season highs.
Two Johnnies finished with double-doubles for the second time this season. Julian Champagnie posted team highs of 24 points and 10 rebounds while also grabbing a pair of steals. The sophomore scored 19 of his points before halftime and shot 9-of-18 from the floor, 4-of-7 from deep, on the game. Rasheem Dunn tallied 13 points and matched a career high with 10 assists, seven of which came in the first half. The redshirt senior guard scored 11 points and committed no turnovers after the intermission.
Posh Alexander netted 15 of his season-high 21 points in the opening half, a period in which he went 6-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-4 from deep. The Brooklyn native also recorded four assists.
Isaih Moore and Dylan Addae-Wusu proved critical in helping the Red Storm close out the Friars. Moore connected on all four of his second-half field goal tries for nine points while Addae-Wusu went 3-for-3 from the floor to finish with eight points over the same stretch.
Marcellus Earlington narrowly missed double figures, recording nine points, six rebounds and two steals in 18 minutes of action. Greg Williams Jr. connected on a couple of 3-pointers in 17 minutes, his highest such total since Jan. 16.
Neither side was interested in missing shots at the start of the contest, as two teams traded buckets on nearly every possession in the opening minutes.
With Providence leading by a pair, 14-12, and 15:35 to play in the half, the Red Storm started forcing Friar misses and embarked on a 19-0 run. The Red Storm made seven of its first eight and nine of its first 11 tries from downtown, moving ahead by as many as 17, 31-14, with just under 11 minutes remaining in the half. Champagnie posted 15 points in the opening seven minutes of the contest and combined with Alexander to score the Red Storm’s first 23 points of the game.
A few minutes later, Providence uncorked a 9-0 run to cut the St. John’s lead back to seven, 41-34, with four and a half minutes remaining until intermission.
Leading 49-41 at the half, the Red Storm quickly saw its lead evaporate. Providence scored the period’s first nine points in the span of two minutes, moving ahead 50-49 on a pair of A.J. Reeves free throws. The Red Storm appeared to have no answer for Nate Watson, who then scored six straight Friar points to push the run to 15-1 and increase the St. John’s deficit to five, 56-51, with 16:01 to go. Watson finished with a game-high 30 points for Providence.
Following a media timeout, the Red Storm began to adjust defensively and regained its rhythm on the offensive end. A Dunn jumper sparked an 8-0 St. John’s run, as the Johnnies moved back ahead by three, 59-56, after an Alexander steal-and-score with 13:41 to go. In possession of the lead once again, the Red Storm continued to pour it on, extending the run as high as 20-3 and ballooning its advantage to 12, 71-59, following a pair of Dunn free throws with 8:10 remaining.
The Friars moved within seven, 83-76, following a Reeves triple with 3:05 to go, but that was as close as St. John’s would allow them to get.
The Red Storm will return to action on Tuesday, traveling to Indianapolis for a matchup with Butler at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. on FS1.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“I thought our guys were out there having fun. We shot the ball well early on. We were 9-15 in the first half from three, but true to form a Providence team coached by Ed Cooley is going to fight back. We had a 17-point lead, but sometimes that can be fool’s gold. I thought our defense wasn’t up to our standards, but over the last 12 or 13 minutes of the game we really got after it. We were able to extend our lead and made our free throws down the stretch and the bench production continues. We got 32 points off of our bench and that is big. Over half of our field goals were assisted on, which shows me that they were sharing the basketball. [Julian Champagnie] and Posh [Alexander] got it started off. We had some guys like Dylan [Addae-Wusu] and Isaih [Moore] come in and play good defense. It was also great to see Greg Williams out there on the floor. I thought his energy and presence gave us a shot in the arm. I was worried coming in because we had just beat Villanova and [our players] have been hearing it from everybody from family to social media, but they stayed focused and came out and got the job done. I was proud of our guys.”
On why the team has been able to shake off blown leads of late…
“The game is 40 minutes and you don’t win a game in the first half, it is the second half. You have to remember that the other team plays too and I thought they were much more aggressive and assertive. We had no answer for [Nate] Watson. He went off on us. Then [Noah Horchler], he had an unbelievable day shooting the basketball. … In the second half, I thought our guys got their composure out there and were defensively connected. They made plays defensively and continued to execute offensively.”
On what changed with the team’s defense after Providence’s big run…
“We made them work for it. We made [Nate] Watson work and when he made a move we had people coming at him. We mixed and matched our defense and that was the difference. Marcellus [Earlington] came out and put his body on Watson and Isaih [Moore] played with his length, but it was the help side [defense]. He still ended up with 30 points, but they made a conscious effort of getting the ball to him. When you have a guy like [David] Duke, one of the leading scorers in our conference, we held him down for the most part and that was a big part of this game right here. We were trying to limit Watson, Duke, and [A.J.] Reaves as much as possible.”
On the team’s ball distribution of late…
“They are sharing the ball right now. Sharing is caring in basketball. Right now, they are playing to win and that is the bottom line. That is something that we stress each and every day. As good as some of our guys are, they played the right way and played unselfishly. Rasheem [Dunn], he gets ten assists and has been one of our big assist guys of late. Posh [Alexander] he has a good performance. So you get assists from different places and when that happens it adds up and makes the game fun. We are trying to get that same concept on defense. If Watson is hurting us, we have to get him some help and then rotate out to the shooters. I thought today we shot the ball well, we converted at the free throw line and made three-pointers. That is a recipe for success on the road. The rebounding also was almost even and if you are doing that against Providence, you are trending the right way. I thought that we got better today.”
On the team’s depth…
“I thought that was the difference in the game. Like I said, the starters had it going in the first half, but one of my concerns was that they were going to start zeroing in on those guys and we had to have other guys being productive. I think we saw that. We did more sharing of the basketball in the second half and making a real effort of getting other guys involved. Dylan [Addae-Wusu] continues to play at a high level and when those guys play well it is big. If there was a game ball to give out today, it would be to those guys on the bench, because they played great in both halves.”
On whether the team has caught the attention of New York City with its play…
“Well, they hired me to win games and that is what we are trying to do, along with playing an exciting brand of basketball and we are doing that. I am excited for our guys, because they are sacrificing a lot with this pandemic and testing protocols, as well as not being able to see their family. But they get a chance to play basketball. This team fits the City of New York, it is blue-collar, we play hard and fast and it is fun. We just have to continue doing what we are doing and hopefully, at some point in time, our fans get to come and see us. It was exciting the other night when I was leaving after the game through gate 4 and a bunch of students were there yelling in the ice.”
Redshirt-senior guard Rasheem Dunn
On what is giving the team the ability to win games…
“I would say we are just sticking to our identity, and by identity I mean defensive mindset and not playing a game that is focused on offense. It starts on the defensive end and we are allowing our defense to dictate the offense. That is our mindset.”
On the confidence level of the team right now…
“Our mindset is first and foremost to stay humble. We just try to go into every game not thinking that it’s a big game, but another game on our schedule. Our goal is to go into every game being humble and going into each game trying to be better.”
On the team’s reaction from being up 17 to going down five…
“I think at that time we were hitting shots and dictated the game on offense rather than doing what has gotten us to this point, and that is the defense.”
On Coach Anderson’s message to the team to avoid a letdown game…
“He always reminds us to not feel too good about ourselves and get too high, because he knew that is something that could happen. We knew it was a big game because it was the next game on our schedule. With us being the underdogs that we have been all season, he wants us to go into the game and play hard so that we can give fans of St. John’s what they have been waiting for.”
On how rewarding the team’s hot streak is for him…
“I think this is really good. Last year, we had a lot of bumps and bruises throughout the year, especially going down the stretch. Then, as you know, COVID hit during the BIG EAST Tournament and set us back. We tried to pick up where we left off last year against Creighton. So, getting everyone on the same page and buying into the system and seeing everyone play their roles in doing what Coach [Anderson] asked us to do. It has just been us believing and playing collectively as a team.”
On what made him keep believing when the team was 1-5 in the BIG EAST…
“I would say it was knowing what we have here and just keep believing and keeping the faith. Things aren’t going to always go right. We have a lot of new players like Vince [Cole] as a transfer, Posh [Alexander] and Dylan [Addae-Wusu] as freshmen, so it was basically getting everyone together and knowing we were trending in the right direction and not to hang our heads. Every game wasn’t going to go our way and we were going to make mistakes, but needed to show some resiliency and that is what we are doing this season.”
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