The St. John’s men’s basketball team jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on Saturday in Carnesecca Arena, cruising to a 91-70 over Saint Peter’s.
St. John’s improved to 2-0 with the win while Saint Peter’s, who was picked to finish second in the MAAC and lost by just three points in a hostile environment at VCU on Tuesday, fell to 0-2.
Junior wing Julian Champagnie eclipsed the 20-point plateau for the second time in as many opportunities this season, posting 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including a 5-for-10 showing from deep. The Brooklyn native and 2021 First Team All-BIG EAST selection also went a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe.
Graduate transfer Tareq Coburn tallied 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a second straight 3-for-5 showing from beyond the arc. Midway through the second half, the Queens native recorded his 1,000th collegiate point on a midrange jumper. Coburn, a student in the highly selective physician assistant master’s program at St. John’s, sank 170 3-pointers in three years at Hofstra.
Posh Alexander narrowly missed a double-double, scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and matching a career high with nine assists. The reigning BIG EAST Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year sank two of his four long-range tries after going 4-for-5 from deep in the season opener.
Purdue transfer Aaron Wheeler reached double figures for the first time as a Johnnie, posting 11 points and seven boards in 18 minutes of action.
Joel Soriano finished with eight points, five boards and four blocks while Montez Mathis tallied seven points, six rebounds and five assists. Soriano’s four rejections matched a career high for the Fordham transfer.
Freshman O’Mar Stanley scored six points on a 3-for-3 effort from the floor. The Overland Park, Kan., native is now a perfect 10-for-10 from the field in his first two games as a Johnnie.
As a team, St. John’s shot 50.8 percent from the floor and converted on 13 of their 29 attempts from long range (44.8%). The Red Storm also topped the 80 percent mark from the free throw line for the second straight game, going 18-for-22 from the charity stripe. The Johnnies also assisted on 20 of their 30 made field goals.
With the win, St. John’s improved to 20-0 all-time against Saint Peter’s dating back to their first meeting in 1910.
The Johnnies got off to a hot start, as Alexander and Champagnie sank triples on back-to-back possessions to kick off the contest, helping the Red Storm grab a 13-5 lead at the first media timeout.
After a layup from Saint Peter’s Clarence Rupert to make it 13-7, St. John’s responded with a 21-5 run, bumping its lead to 22, 34-12, on a Champagnie three with seven minutes remaining until the intermission. Coburn tallied eight consecutive points during the middle of the spurt.
St. John’s built its advantage as high as 24 before entering the locker room with a 20-point edge, 47-27.
St. John’s climbed ahead by as many as 27 early in the second half and led by no fewer than 17 at any point in the period.
St. John’s will hit the road for the first time next week, traveling to Bloomington for a Wednesday matchup with the Indiana Hoosiers. Tip-off in the Gavitt Games showdown is set for 9 p.m. on FS1.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“We wanted to come out and establish defensively how we wanted to play. I believe we did that. We were active. … We emphasized to our guys to keep them out of the lane and to use our size advantage on the glass, and of course we made some shots. We had good ball movement, some timely shots and guys coming off the bench giving us great energy. It was a good energy game. When you get a lead like that, you always worry about the letdown. We saw some of that, but overall, I thought our guys played together. The guys that came off the bench gave us quality minutes. Joel [Soriano] came out and established himself early on and got their big guy in foul trouble. I thought that was a big key in the game.”
On the improvement of this year’s team…
“You look at the guys that came back from last year, obviously they learned something. I thought this game was going to be a will of tempos. We have more guys that fit up-tempo in terms of how we want to play. We have some length. We have some athletic ability. We have older guys. These guys are getting better and better. Whether it be Dylan [Addae-Wusu], Julian [Champagnie] or Posh [Alexander], they set the table for us. These guys follow their leads. That’s the biggest part of it. I think more guys fit what we want to do and how we want to play.”
On preparing his team to face Indiana on Wednesday…
“It is another test. Our first game [against Mississippi Valley State] we were up big and we won big. Sometimes you get false illusions in that kind of game. Now, we come back and play a Saint Peter’s team that played at VCU and had a chance to win that game. Heading to Indiana, we have to continue to get better. That’s the biggest key. We can get better in a lot of departments. In the second half, we gave up  points tonight. We let them eventually win the rebound war because we were ahead. We can still clean up some things. We have to continue to execute when we’re up.”
On Rafael Pinzon…
“I think he is figuring it out. That’s all. He’s been practicing unbelievably. He’s played some games where he has played well. That’s typical for freshman; there are going to be ups and downs. He’ll figure it out. I think he’s smart enough. He has a moxie. He wants to be on the floor, so he’s going to keep fighting and doing the things he has to do.”
Junior center Joel Soriano
On how the team is coming together…
“We’ve been together since June. We’ve had time to mesh and find out where our weaknesses and our strengths. We work hard every day. The amount of work we’ve put in is going to show. The harder we work in practice, the harder we’re going to play in games. Coach [Anderson] emphasizes that we have to be a team. We’re not where we want to be yet as a team but we’ll get there.”
On adjusting to St. John’s up-tempo play style…
“The pace here is definitely different. We are a run-and-gun team, we play fast and press a lot. The pace has been the biggest difference and I like to get out and run, it’s fun.”
Junior forward Julian Champagnie
On Posh Alexander…
“We all love Posh. He’s a guy who passes the rock and does it extremely well, as you can see he had nine assists today. Our expectations for Posh [Alexander] are super high, we expect him to perform like that and he always does.”
On the team’s defense…
“Our energy on defense has really stood out to me. … The defense is where we’ve taken a step so far, everyone has been active on defense, even though we had some breakdowns. We are able to come together on the next play, talk through it and go out there and execute.
On the team’s readiness for its next game at Indiana…
“We still have two days of practice before that game, so we’ll have to tighten up some loose ends. We plan to go out there for a tough battle.”
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