After seeing its six-game winning streak snapped last week at Butler, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team rebounded by snapping a streak of its own on Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena, beating Xavier for the first time since 2015 and moving back above .500 in BIG EAST play with a 93-84 victory.
The win, which moved the Red Storm (14-8, 8-7 BIG EAST) into sole possession of fifth place in the BIG EAST standings, also marked the 400th of Mike Anderson’s head coaching career. Anderson began his head coaching career at UAB in 2002 after serving 17 years as an assistant coach at Tulsa and Arkansas, helping his mentor Nolan Richardson to 390 wins during that stretch. Anderson has also served as the head coach at Missouri and Arkansas, leading his teams to 12 postseason berths and nine NCAA Tournaments.
The Red Storm, which cracked the 90-point mark for the fourth time in BIG EAST play, had five players finish in double figures for the fifth time this season.
The leading scorer in the BIG EAST, Julian Champagnie netted 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor and a perfect 7-for-7 effort from the charity stripe. The sophomore from Brooklyn also added five rebounds.
Posh Alexander nearly became the first St. John’s player since Ron Artest in 1999 to tally a triple-double, finishing with 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, the latter two of which were season highs. The four-time BIG EAST Freshman of the Week also recorded three steals and did not surrender a single turnover in 33 minutes of action. 13 of Alexander’s 15 points came after the intermission, as he went 6-of-8 from the floor in the second half.
After scoring a season-high 17 points in the team’s last game against Xavier, Rasheem Dunn registered 17 once again against the Musketeers on Tuesday. The fifth-year senior, who went 7-for-11 form the charity stripe, also dished out four assists and grabbed three boards.
Marcellus Earlington logged what was arguably the most efficient outing of his collegiate career, posting 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including a 4-for-5 showing from deep, and grabbing nine boards. The junior from Stony Point, N.Y., also dished out two assists and finished as a +14 in 20 minutes of action.
In addition to throwing down four of the rim-rocking dunks for which he has become well known, Isaih Moore also drained his lone three-point attempt to finish with 11 points. The junior from Columbia, S.C., grabbed five boards in the win.
Still in the process of working his way back from injury, Greg Williams Jr. tallied eight points, three assists and no turnovers in 21 minutes while posting a game-high plus-minus rating of +16.
As a team, St. John’s shot 51.5 percent (34-of-66) from the floor and outrebounded the Musketeers by a 42-37 margin. In their loss to Xavier in Cincinnati on Jan. 6, the Johnnies were outboarded by 17.
Before Tuesday, St. John’s had lost 12 straight decisions to Xavier, the second longest losing streak against a single opponent in program history behind only a 13-loss streak to Villanova from 2012-2018. In that last win against Xavier prior to Tuesday, D’Angelo Harrison scored 20 while Sir’Dominic Pointer added 19 points and nine boards in a 58-57 victory at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 23, 2015.
Leading 9-4 after an Alexander steal-and-score three minutes into the contest, St. John’s went without a point for four minutes as Xavier used 10-0 run to take a 14-9 edge. That lead would be the largest of the game for the Musketeers, as the Johnnies uncorked a 7-0 run to move back ahead, 16-14.
Colby Jones responded with a triple at the 10:04 mark of the first half to put Xavier in front, 17-16, but Williams answered with a layup and the Red Storm never trailed the rest of the way.
St. John’s moved ahead by as many as nine, 32-23, following seven straight made field goals, but the Musketeers made four consecutive triples to pull back within one, 36-35, with 3:44 remaining in the half. The Red Storm responded by scoring 10 of the game’s next 11 points, pushing its lead to double figures before taking a 46-38 lead into the locker room.
After St. John’s took its largest lead of the game, 65-52, following an Earlington triple with seven and a half minutes gone in the period, Nate Johnson went on a personal 7-0 run to pull Xavier within six, 65-59, with just under 11 minutes to go. Moore responded by throwing down back-to-back highlight reel dunks, pushing the lead back to double figures and shifting momentum in favor of the Red Storm.
Xavier would not make it a two-possession game again until the final 30 seconds, as the Red Storm cruised to its eighth win in its last 10 games.
St. John’s will return to action on Saturday, welcoming DePaul to Carnesecca Arena for a 7:30 p.m. tip on FS1.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
Opening statement and on his 400th career victory…
“First, I am sorry it took so long. It was a special moment with this team and I think about all of the other teams that I have had, as well as the coaches and administration that took a chance on me as a head coach. I always say that I am just a young buck from Birmingham, Alabama. I was born in football country, and here I am coaching basketball, and it is a blessing. I am very grateful. I have been blessed. This team right here is working on having a special year and I hope that this game here is not the end. Again, it is just a reflection and I never thought I would be in this position here, but I have to thank my family, my wife, and there is a lot of people out there looking out for Mike Anderson. I just want you all to know that. Tonight, we played a Xavier team that we saw [Zach] Freemantle and [Paul] Scruggs, those guys came in here shooting the basketball at a high-level, but if you look at our team tonight, we shared the basketball. Defensively, we sped them up even though they didn’t turn the ball over. It was a hard-fought win and we finished it off. We out-rebounded them, which didn’t take place in the first meeting [in January]. We are a different team than when we played them the first time and they are a different team. I am just grateful that we had a chance to get the win at home.”
On Posh Alexander’s play even when his shots weren’t falling…
“I was proud of him and talked to him after the game. I said, “last week you didn’t shoot the ball well, and you got frustrated, but this time you continued to play and impacted the team in other ways.” I think he had seven assists at halftime, and I don’t know how many he ended up with, but he also grabbed some rebounds and then the scoring started. We had a lot of guys that stepped up for us tonight. Marcellus [Earlington] had 16 and nine rebounds, Isaih [Moore] continues to play well. The bench is a difference-maker, you can see that the level of intensity goes up. Quietly, Jules [Julian Champagnie] I had no idea he had 21 points. This team has a lot of parts and more of those parts continue to play at a consistent level. It was good to see Greg [Williams Jr.] get out there and get some action, that is only going to pay dividends going forward. Again Posh [Alexander] continues to impact this team in a lot of different ways.”
On how the team was able to rebound from the Butler loss…
“I think it speaks volumes to how this team has responded all year long. Even early on when we were 1-5 in BIG EAST play and they just kept coming back. You can call them the bounce-back or comeback kids whatever you want to call them, but they are listening and going out and trying to execute the game plan. I think they are actually taking ownership. There are times when they are looking at me and saying, “hey coach, we got this.” They did it tonight. They said, “coach, we got it,” and they are playing for each other now. I think you can see the bonding, chemistry, they love playing with each other and don’t care who gets the credit. I think that is when your team is hard-to-beat. They are happy no matter who is scoring.”
On how a win over Xavier can help the team’s chances at the NCAA Tournament…
“I think you have got to take care of homecourt. I think we have a big-time schedule in our league and when those teams come here, you have got to hold serve. First game of the year they beat us at their place, but this is the time of year in February where you will remember these games here. They will remember them the right way in coming out on the right side of the ledger. I thought we shot the ball way, defended well, and it was an exciting game. It wasn’t for the faint-of-heart. It was going back-and-forth with shot-making. There weren’t too many turnovers, I think they had eight and we had 11. Every time we punched, they would punch back. Again, Xavier is a very good basketball team”
On how to keep the team focused…
“I always talk about the day-to-day in practice, let’s get better each and every day. One of the things that we have been good about doing is that, and we haven’t changed much in how we go about doing things, so that is going to be our job. Of course, I have got to lean on some of the older guys that have been here like Greg [Williams Jr.], Marcellus [Earlington], those guys are going to have to show them the way and they have to see it through my eyes. Obviously having them isolated helps a little bit, but as you said, they are going to be looking at social media and all that. We have been down that road though. It is a four-game season and we have to look at it as one game at a time. It is over at midnight, get a chance to celebrate and then we turn our attention to DePaul.”
On how Julian Champagnie has improved throughout the season…
“I think he is just learning. He is a sophomore, so teams are coming at him. They are doubling, tripling, and gapping him, but the thing I like about today is that he moved without the ball, got some shots in transition, and there are times where he is a decoy. They come up on him, so all of a sudden, Marcellus [Earlington] is wide-open taking shots, Greg [Williams Jr.] is wide-open. The thing I like about it is you continue to see him impacting the game defensively, whether it is blocking shots, making guys change direction. He is growing as a player and that is the beauty of it – he is impacting the game even when he is not scoring.”
On the play of Isaih Moore…
“He has been one of our most efficient players. I think when he comes in, you can see the energy-level and excitement pick up. He is out there talking and very active. As a matter of fact, I thought I was going to have to get him some oxygen at halftime. He was out there for like 11 straight minutes and we see his impact. To me, he is considered a starter and now he is taking that approach when he is out there and playing all-out. If you can get 11 or 12 guys playing like that, you will have a special team.”
Junior Marcellus Earlington
On Posh Alexander’s bounce-back game…
“Posh [Alexander] was great today. He is a dog, fighting for loose balls, making the right play, he is really confident, we play through him. We tell him that he is the energy bug, wherever he goes, we go. He was aggressive, defending hard, just leaving it all out there, and that’s what he does every game , so I am not surprised. He does that in practice, so it carried over.”
On the team’s bench production…
“We know we are a very deep team and that everybody just has to step up. We have experience, we have everything. Coach always tells us that we have eight starters, so everybody goes in there and plays hard, plays their minutes and just plays basketball.”
On how the team’s chemistry has developed throughout the season…
“This was our goal. We know how good we can be, we just have to go out there, listen to the coaches and play hard. We have a very deep team, everybody works hard and just like I said, take our practices into the game. I mean, we are not surprised. We practice hard, we enjoy playing with each other as you can see, including our defense. I feel like if we just play hard, just listen to the coaches and everybody plays their game we will continue to keep winning.”
On his mindset from beyond-the-arc…
“I just told myself no more hesitating, I work on my shot every day, it’s going to open up lanes for my teammates. So, I was just like I am not going to think, I am just going to go out there and shoot, and after I made the first two, I felt good about my shot.”
On providing a spark off the bench…
“Coach [Anderson] always talks to me about my role every day, if it’s not scoring then I do other things like rebound, defend and just let the game come to me. I understand that this is my role, I am going to thrive in it, I am going to do whatever it takes for the team to get the win. I am just going out there and playing hard, playing how I usually play, then there is going to be some games like today where it just starts falling. So I just go out there and play my game.”
On what it means to get Coach Anderson his 400th win…
“It means a lot. He is a hard-working coach, he is on us every day. He has a winning mentality and we just came out here today and really wanted to get him his 400th win, we are very proud of him. He has been a great coach all year, I am very happy for him. I am very proud.”
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