Trailing by 11 at the half, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team dominated the final 15 minutes of the contest to take down Providence, 81-67, on Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena. The victory marked the program’s 500th all-time inside the Johnnies’ on campus home which opened prior to the 1961-62 season.
With the win, St. John’s (15-10, 9-9 BIG EAST) has swept the regular season series with the Friars for the first time since 2014-15 and holds a three-game winning streak against its longtime BIG EAST foe for the first time since 2000.
Despite being played without fans physically in attendance, Wednesday’s game was a virtual sellout. The Red Storm faithful purchased 5,750 virtual tickets, enough to fill the building’s 5,602 seats and standing-room only locations.
Playing without his backcourt mate and fellow Brooklyn native Posh Alexander due to a right thumb sprain, Rasheem Dunn was nothing short of sensational for the Red Storm. The redshirt senior scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, shooting 7-of-8 from the floor in the period. Dunn also dished out a team-high three assists, all of which came after halftime. With the game tied at 60 and six minutes to play, Dunn scored eight points on an 11-0 St. John’s run to put away the contest.
Two Johnnies finished with double-doubles, as Julian Champagnie tallied 16 points and 10 boards while Isaih Moore logged 10 points and 11 rebounds. Moore, who made four of his six field goal attempts, finished game-high plus-minus rating of +26 in 20 minutes of action. Champagnie’s double-double was his seventh of the season, tied for the BIG EAST lead in that category.
Greg Williams Jr. netted 13 of his 15 points in the second half, going 3-of-5 from the floor and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line in the latter stanza. Williams, who missed significant time with a back injury, finished in double figures for the first time since Jan. 16.
Vince Cole added eight points for the Johnnies while Dylan Addae-Wusu chipped in six. Josh Roberts grabbed five boards in just nine minutes of action.
John McGriff and Marcellus Earlington played key roles in the Red Storm’s defensive turnaround during the second half. Earlington specifically helped hamper Providence’s Nate Watson down the stretch, as the 6-foot-10 center had just three points in the final 15 minutes of the contest.
Leading 7-4 with just under five minutes gone in the game, St. John’s watched Providence uncork a 12-1 run to take a 16-8 edge two minutes later.
Trailing by 10, 24-14, near the midway mark of the period, the Red Storm rattled off a 14-4 run to tie the game at 28 five minutes later on a Roberts tip-in. Five different Johnnies scored on the spurt, led by four points from Cole.
From there, the Friars responded with eight unanswered and 13 of the half’s final 15 points to take a 41-30 edge into the locker room.
After trading buckets to start the half, St. John’s rattled off six straight to pull within five, 45-40, on a pair of Moore free throws with 16:43 to go.
Providence quickly built its lead back to nine with a pair of quick buckets from Watson and A.J. Reeves before the Red Storm began to chip away. Williams anchored a 7-0 run, throwing down a dunk and draining a trey to pull the Johnnies within two, 49-47, with 14:37 to go.
Following a layup from Jared Bynum to put the Friars back ahead by four, St. John’s rattled off six straight to take its first lead since the 17-minute mark of the first half, 53-51, following back-to-back transition layups from Dunn.
After St. John’s went ahead by as many as five, 58-53, Providence scored seven of the game’s next nine points to tie it at 60 with 6:46 to play.
On the Red Storm’s next trip down, Dunn drilled a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring, kick starting that decisive 11-0 run. Dunn would add a transition and-one and an 18-foot jumper to provide eight points on the tear.
Providence would not get back within single digits the rest of the way, as St. John’s made seven of its final nine free throw attempts to ice the game.
The Red Storm will close out the regular season on Saturday against Seton Hall. A win over the Pirates would secure a top-five seed in next week’s BIG EAST Tournament and a bye to the quarterfinal round. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on FS1.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“Well, we always talk about a half that you want to win and that is the second half. I really have to commend our guys for coming out and really stepping up our defensive intensity, pressure, rebounding the ball and making them work for everything. David Duke, the first half was his, but in the second half we came out with a much better sense of urgency and I thought the tempo picked up and that was to our liking. The guys coming off the bench continue to contribute. Again, it was a tale of two halves. I don’t know if it was the eight-day layoff or what it was, because we had shots in the first half that we normally would make and didn’t. In the second half, we came out in attack-mode defensively and offensively, and therefore we got to the free throw line and made 20 out of 26 of those. There was the difference in the game. We were winning the war on the boards and we know that Providence is a very physical basketball team. There was a lot at stake in this game for both teams and we just came out on the right side of it.”
On the second half comeback …
“I think it tells you a lot about our basketball team and the character that they have. They stayed together and we always talk about that even when adversity takes place. We just knew that we hadn’t played that well in the first half and give Providence credit for that. In the second half, we just buckled down and said we have got to guard these guys and make them work for everything. We got the game going to our tempo. Again, Isaih [Moore] was the guy who really kept us in it in the first half with his energy and playing hard, rebounding offensively, but he picked up a few fouls and we left him in there with three [fouls]. It is amazing how he really stepped up with a double-double and [Julian Champagnie] had a double-double. Some of the biggest minutes were played by a guy like John McGriff. You look at it and seven minutes, but I thought those were seven pivotal minutes. I thought it took all of our basketball team. Again, when you lose someone the caliber of Posh [Alexander], it takes the whole team to step up and I thought we saw Rasheem [Dunn] probably had one of his better halves in a St. John’s uniform both defensively and offensively.”
On if he thought the second half was the best half the team has played all season…
“I think we can play better. I thought defensively we were really good. We held them to 26 points after they exploded for 41 in the first half. We outrebounded them and went into attack-mode, which got us to the free throw line. Our pressure defense is not all about getting steals, but they came out and executed anything that they wanted to. In the second half, I thought that fatigue was a factor, and I thought the tempo of the game changed.”
On the play of Greg Williams Jr. and Rasheem Dunn in the second half…
“Those guys had some open looks in the first half, but they didn’t knock them down. I thought we settled a little bit in the first half and in the second half we were in a much better rhythm in terms of attacking and sharing the basketball. I think we had three or four assists at the half and we ended up with 12. So, when we are moving and sharing the ball, good things happen. They stayed within the confines of what we were doing and then all of a sudden it started clicking. Hopefully that continues to finish out the season.”
On whether Providence was worn down in the second half…
“I thought fatigue was a factor, but they have to answer that. I just thought that the rhythm and speed of the game when it picked up it was to our advantage. It seemed like we had better timing in the second half, but at this time of the year, you only get so many opportunities, so you have to come out with it. In the second half, I thought we did. It is a 40-minute game, not a 20-minute game. … In the second half, we were more intense defensively, made them uncomfortable in what they were doing and got all of the loose balls. We were also in attack-mode offensively.”
Redshirt senior guard Rasheem Dunn
On how he was able to turn his shot around in the second half …
“I think it was based off of momentum play, us playing defense, knowing that we were down 11 at the half. Not even that, but my teammates actually picking me up, they saw I wasn’t hitting them I was down and they actually gave me the confidence. We were in our heads because we were down 11 points, like Coach [Anderson] always says ‘our defense is our offense’ so once we go up and down and just rhythm shots and that’s what happened today. We see Greg [Williams Jr.] and Julian [Champagnie] were hitting and came up big time and then we went up and down.”
On the meaning of this win without injured teammate Posh Alexander …
“It actually means a lot to us, but it shows us how much of a competitive team we can be. It shows that we can compete with anybody in the country. For example, we were down 11 at halftime, we wound up winning the game [by 14]. We were just playing defense and we got to our identity. We didn’t try and win the game with offense, we just let our defense turn into offense, that’s what happened.”
On if the team felt the absence of Posh Alexander in the first half …
“We would definitely love to have Posh [Alexander] on the court with us. If you look at how the season has been, in the first game of the season I went down with a concussion and other guys stepped up. Julian [Champagnie] wasn’t playing at the beginning of the season and other guys stepped up. I think that has been the narrative with our team the whole year, one man goes down, just another time and another opportunity for the next person to step up. I think that what happened to us today. Greg [Williams Jr.] stepped up for us with having 15 points, actually John McGriff came off the bench and gave us some good minutes. I think everyone stepped up and like I said, we won the game on defense.”
On if his mentality changed with Posh [Alexander] not playing …
“No, my mentality stayed the same. I was still taking on that leadership role and still having to step up for my team. Things I have been trying to do all year and things I have been doing all year. I just had to get everyone together since he [Posh Alexander] wasn’t playing. It’s great to have him on the court with us, but the show doesn’t stop. We still got games to play and as much as we would love him on the court with us, unfortunately he is not on the court with us. Like I said, we have to come out and defend and everyone else has to step up.”
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