The St. John’s men’s basketball team battled to erase a 14-point deficit on Wednesday at Assembly Hall, but was unable to complete the comeback, falling to Indiana, 76-74, in The Gavitt Tipoff Games.
The Red Storm, which trailed by a dozen at the break, tied the game on a pair of occasions in the final 10 minutes and pulled within one in the closing 11 seconds. A potential game-winning 3-pointer missed its target at the final buzzer.
Julian Champagnie led the way for the Red Storm, scoring 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting, including a career-high six 3-pointers. The First Team All-BIG EAST selection, who also grabbed a team-high seven boards and scored 22 points after the intermission, eclipsed the 30-point mark for the second time as a Johnnie and finished one point shy of his career high set last season. His 32 points are the most by a BIG EAST player in a game this season.
Vermont transfer Stef Smith recorded 13 of his 16 points in the second half, a stanza in which the Johnnies shot 51.6 percent from the field. Smith went 5-of-8 from the field in the final 20 minutes, including a perfect 4-for-4 showing from inside the arc. The Ajax, Ont., product also recorded a team-high three steals.
Reigning BIG EAST Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Posh Alexander tallied 10 points, six assists, six rebounds and a pair of steals despite foul trouble.
Freshman Rafael Pinzon finished with only five points and three rebounds, but seemed to make a number of significant contributions as the Red Storm charged back in the second half.
St. John’s played the final 27 minutes of the contest without Montez Mathis, who was ejected following a flagrant-2 foul late in the first half.
Preseason First Team All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis logged an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double for the Hoosiers. Redshirt senior forward Race Thompson added 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
Following a game-opening triple from Champagnie, Indiana responded with four straight makes on a 9-0 run. A Mathis 3-pointer brought the Red Storm back within a pair, 12-10, at the 14:27 mark of the half, but the Johnnies converted on just one field goal in the next 10 minutes of gameplay, allowing the Hoosiers to climb ahead by 13, 32-19, with four and a half minutes left in the period.
Leading by 12 at the break, Indiana opened the second-half scoring with a free throw before the Johnnies uncorked a 10-2 run to pull within five, 42-37, with just two minutes gone in the stanza. Champagnie and Smith chipped in five points apiece on the spurt.
Indiana built its lead back to 10 before the Red Storm went off on another run, this time a 7-0 tear, to make it one-possession game, 49-46, with 14:39 to go.
Indiana climbed back ahead by seven, 56-49, before a couple of tough plays pulled the Johnnies even. The highlight of the run came from Pinzon, who battled for an offensive rebound, the team’s second of the possession, before draining a left-wing triple to bring St. John’s within two. Alexander sank two free throws next time down to make it 56-56.
The Hoosiers responded with a 7-0 run over the next 90 seconds, but the Johnnies answered right back with a 7-0 run of their own to tie it at 65. Champagnie scored the final five points of the spurt.
Jackson-Davis and Thompson buried back-to-back buckets to make it 69-65, before a Champagnie triple brought the Johnnies back within one.
The two teams traded blows the rest of the way. Champagnie’s final basket of the night brought St. John’s back within one with 11 seconds to play. A 1-for-2 trip to the line from Xavier Johnson gave the Red Storm a look at the potential game-winner with eight seconds to go, but a final three from Champagnie missed its mark.
St. John’s will return to action on Saturday when it hosts Fairleigh Dickinson at Carnesecca Arena. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. on FS2.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“I thought [Indiana] came out with great energy. The crowd got into it. They punched us in the mouth early on. We were fortunate to get into halftime only 12 down. They were making shots. They were rebounding. They were scoring at will. I thought we played on our heels. I thought we came out, and our intensity picked up on defense. We sped the game up, and it gave us a chance. I told our guys we didn’t lose that one; we just ran out of time. They made plays. They made big plays going down the stretch. … We didn’t get what we wanted [on the last possession]. At the same time, we had a chance.”
On losing Montez Mathis for the game…
“He’s one of the starters. He’s one of the more physical guards. He’s a guy that can make plays off the bounce. I think [one of] our first made buckets was him getting in the lane and scoring, and he knocked the three down. The thing I love about this team, though, is somebody [else] stepped up. We had other guys step up. I was really proud of our freshmen. They came in, and I thought they gave us some really great minutes. We always talk about our bench being the strength of our team.”
On the last play of the game…
“I thought the spacing was bad. I thought if Julian [Champagnie] stayed down, I thought [Rafael] Pinzon had an opportunity to get in the lane and make a play for him [Champagnie] or make a play for himself, either try to get a foul or get to the basket. It was only a two point game, so that’s something we have to work on. It’s a new team.”
On the team’s performance…
“I thought we sped the game up. I thought we did a good job of attacking the basket. In the first half, we stayed on the perimeter, so what do you do when you stay on the perimeter? You shoot jump shots. I thought, in the second half, we got their guys in foul trouble. We got ball movement, and then we were on the attack. We had guys making plays, swinging the ball [and] skipping it. I thought Stef [Smith] really played well in the second half for us. [He] kept us in it. We have to continue to work and get guys comfortable and playing whether it’s at home or on the road. The biggest question you always [ask] is: does your game travel? I have some film, and we’ll see the things we need to continue to work on. The first thing I told those guys [was] I like the gut check. It was a gut check at halftime, and [they] responded. They responded in a positive way. We didn’t get the results we wanted, but it’s something we will continue to build on.”
On Julian Champagnie…
“His development continues. In his offseason, he went through the process of finding out what he needed to work on. He has worked on it, and he is bringing it to the game. I thought this was one of his best games at St. John’s. From offensive and defensive [perspective]. He was at the front of the press, the back of the press, rebounding, blocking shots, loose balls, making big shots, making free-throws. He left it on the floor, and that is what you expect from your leader. He has a chance to have a tremendous year and I think he has the type of team that he can be that leader. He is drawing a lot of attention, but he is not just trying to do it by himself, I think that is the beauty of it.”
Junior forward Julian Champagnie
On what the team will take from this game going forward…
“We fought, we fought extremely hard and I am so proud of the guys and coach [Mike Anderson], everyone is proud of each other. Even though we didn’t come out victorious, we will go ahead and learn from this we are onto our next game.“
On playing at Assembly Hall…
“It was a fun experience I wouldn’t take that away from it, it was tough. The climb back felt good honestly, the crowd was on their feet a lot but we were also able to quiet them down. It was good to be able to do that, but that end of the day we weren’t able to come out with the win.”
On the last play…
“I turned around and there were three people standing there including one of our guys, so the [last shot] felt a little forced. At the end of the day, we have to go back and watch film, we’ll learn from this. It sucks that we lost but we have a lot of games to go. We will go back and watch this then make our adjustments.“
Graduate student guard Stef Smith
On Julian Champagnie scoring 32 points…
“He played great. You see on the stat sheet he had 32 big points. We were struggling offensively, he stepped up and took the challenge and his leadership is huge for us, as we get further into the season we are going to understand who can do what. We will figure out what spots he needs to get the ball to, it’s our third game, we’re still in November, but we just have to learn from this experience and move forward as a unit. There’s going to be guys like Montez [Mathis], Posh [Alexander] and Joel [Soriano] who have nights like Julian [Champagnie] had, we just need to move forward as a team and continue to share the rock.”
On playing in tough environments…
“I’ve had experience playing in great environments, [playing] at Kansas and in the [NCAA] Tournament against Florida State. The biggest thing is to just lock in and block out all of the outside noise, especially at the free-throw line you have to lock in and focus on what you have to do. We knew it was going to be a tough crowd. We had to stick together and we fought back in the second half. I’m really proud of the way we played in the second half and we have to watch the film and see what we can improve on.“
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