The start was less than ideal. The second half could not have gone better.
Trailing 18-0 with just over six minutes gone in the contest, the Red Storm outscored Seton Hall 81-53 the rest of the way, finishing the regular season with a 10-9 record in BIG EAST play and securing a top-five seed in next week’s conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. By virtue of that top-five finish, the Johnnies have locked in a bye to the BIG EAST Quarterfinals for the first time since 2014-15.
St. John’s (16-10, 10-9 BIG EAST) shot 18-of-27 (66.7%) from the floor in the second half, including a 6-for-9 (66.7%) showing from three-point range. The Johnnies also went 11-for-13 from the charity stripe in the second half and 13-of-16 on the game.
The leading scorer in the BIG EAST, Julian Champagnie tallied 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. The Brooklyn native went a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line and came away with two steals. Champagnie, who averaged 19.5 points in 19 conference games, becomes the fourth player in program history and the first St. John’s underclassman to lead the BIG EAST in scoring over the course of a season, joining Chris Mullin (1983-84), Walter Berry (1985-86) and Marcus Hatten (2001-02).
Dylan Addae-Wusu scored nine of his season-high 14 points in the second half. On the game, the freshman from the Bronx went 5-of-6 from the floor and dished out three assists.
Marcellus Earlington also tallied nine second-half points, draining three triples at key points in the contest. Earlington, who played a critical role in limiting Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili late in the game, also grabbed six boards.
Making his second consecutive start in place of the injured Posh Alexander, Greg Williams Jr. tallied 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal.
Vince Cole finished with eight points while Rasheem Dunn logged seven points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals on his senior night. Arnaldo Toro, who grabbed two boards in 11 minutes of action, was also honored prior to the game along with four of the team’s senior managers.
John McGriff and Josh Roberts registered three and four points, respectively, but were key part of the Red Storm’s second half run, especially on the defensive end. McGriff had two steals while Roberts registered a block and altered a number of other Seton Hall shots.
St. John’s struggled to find the bottom of the net at the start of the game while Seton Hall struggled to miss much of anything. The Pirates made their first five, six of their first seven and seven of their first 10 shot attempts while St. John’s missed each of its first 10. The Red Storm did not score its first point until 6:58 of game time had passed, as Seton Hall jumped out to an 18-0 lead.
From there, the Red Storm outscored Seton Hall, 21-9, over the next seven minutes, pulling within six on a Dunn 1-for-2 trip to the line with 6:17 to play in the opening half. St. John’s would get no closer than six in the first stanza and trailed 38-28 at the intermission.
Coming out of the locker room, the two teams traded buckets in the opening minute of action, as a Shavar Reynolds jumper made it 40-30 in favor of the Pirates with 19:11 to go. Over the next eight minutes, St. John’s outscored the Pirates by a margin of 26-6. Capping that larger run was a 12-0 spurt that featured an Earlington three, four points from Champagnie and five points from Addae-Wusu to put the Red Storm ahead by double digits for the first time, 56-46, with 11:28 to play.
Seton Hall would not go down without a fight, as the Pirates cut the lead in half less than two minutes later on a Mamukelashvili layup. The Red Storm responded with a 9-2 run to take its largest lead of the night, 67-55, on a Cole fadeaway jumper with six minutes to play.
Seton Hall quickly cut the deficit back to six at the under-four media timeout, but the Johnnies managed to keep the Pirates at bay thanks to a pair of clutch 3-pointers from Earlington.
The lead shrank to five with 44 seconds left following back-to-back Seton Hall triples, but Champagnie and Williams combined to go 5-for-6 from the charity stripe as the Red Storm held on for a 10-point victory.
The Red Storm enters the BIG EAST Tournament as the No. 4 seed and will face No. 5 Seton Hall in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 3 p.m. on FS1.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“I believe we are shaping into form, so to speak. The tendency of a lot of my teams is maybe not to get down so much early, but we always have been a second half team. In this particular game, I thought that momentum changed in the second half and they came out and obviously attacked us and we were settling in the first half, but that happens on senior day. That is why I tried to remind our guys that emotions can only take you so far and I thought Seton Hall came out and established themselves. … How about our bench coming in and playing some quality minutes, whether it be John [McGriff], Dylan [Addae-Wusu], and Josh [Roberts]. That was the Josh that I know, protecting the rim and playing like his hair is on fire. Marcellus [Earlington] was big tonight because he was a tough matchup for them. Then the starters came back and settled down and I thought our defense picked up in the second half. Sometimes defense leads to offense and the tempo got to our liking. I thought fatigue became a factor in this game, but thank goodness for our bench.”
On how the team has been able to face adversity…
“They have been through the wars in the games that we have played up until this point. They are starting to compete and hang our hats on our defense and our bench is big in this category. The seniors that played tonight, a guy like [Arnaldo] Toro who hasn’t played too much all year, he came in and played some big minutes. He had a big rebound going down the stretch where they were trying to get back into it. They play for each other, they play unselfish offensively and defensively when they are called upon.”
On the team’s effort tonight…
“We played active defensively and the pressure picked up. We played with a little bit of motivation. We could talk about it all the time, but at this point in the season it is one game at a time. Our guys played like it was their last game of the season. You take the first half and other games where we have been down, I think throughout the season we have learned how to navigate being down in games. Our defensive intensity was good. Then the guys who come off the bench see what is going on out there and they have been good students of the game, because they watch and then the intensity picks up even more when they go out there. Tonight, it was all about the stops. Three or four stops.”
On the qualities that the team needed to have to come back…
“You have to have a little bit of confidence. … I thought we started attacking and getting to the basket, and Dylan [Addae-Wusu] got an and-one to get us started. Then Greg [Williams Jr.] started getting to the basket and all of a sudden [John] McGriff comes in and starts making plays. You saw them start to get a little bit on their heels. But give Seton Hall credit, they came out and were attacking and we weren’t helping because they were getting dunks and layups. I thought in the second half we did a good job of making an adjustment.”
On the play of John McGriff…
“I thought he was key. He made a strip early in the game and I thought that he set the tone. Early on, I thought that our pressure defense full-court, we didn’t get into it because we couldn’t score. But when we could get into it, you saw John spearhead it because once he started it was like the domino effect. Other guys started to feed off of it. We started rebounding the ball and pushing the ball and the tempo changed when he was in there. He was my energizer bunny tonight.”
On the potential of playing Seton Hall first in the BIG EAST Tournament…
“At this time of year, you are going to play somebody that you have already played. So we are still in the family and now we are in the tournament setting. It brings a lot of different circumstances. It is about surviving and advancing in that tournament. …. We get a chance to play at our other home arena that we haven’t played at this year, Madison Square Garden, so it should be an exciting tournament.”
Junior Greg Williams Jr.
On the team’s mentality being down 18-0 …
“We were getting smacked and the coaches helped gather our emotions and reunited us. We kind of got the jitters out with senior day and we just had to bounce back, play with our backs against the wall and we just had to come back with a different type of intensity.”
On being a team that thrives when facing adversity even with Posh Alexander out…
“IA number of us on the team have gone down at some point and like coach said ‘next man up.’ The bond that we all have, we all just use that as kind of motivation for the people that fell. So I think that we all just bonded together once Posh [Alexander] went down, kind of do it for the whole team.”
On what it means to have a winning record in BIG EAST play for the first time in six years…
“I think it’s a great thing for the history of this school. We definitely have a different culture and I think it’s a good direction moving forward.”
On the most important things needed to make a comeback …
“Definitely staying together. I think that when adversity hits, we stay together, we didn’t bicker as much at each other or anything like that. We just kept being positive and trying to make a difference in the game.”
On the excitement level to play in conference tournament after last year…
“I still think about that game [last year’s matchup with Creighton], every time we talk about the tournament that’s all I think about, just the season in general. It definitely feels great to be back there and I hope that doesn’t happen again because we have looked forward to this moment this whole year. I really look forward to that time again.”
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