After having its first four scheduled league games postponed due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team will finally open its BIG EAST season on Wednesday night when it welcomes DePaul to Carnesecca Arena.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on FS1 with Aaron Goldsmith and Jim Jackson on the call. Fans can also hear the LEARFIELD Red Storm Sports Network audio broadcast featuring John Minko and Vin Parise on a variety of digital platforms, including The Varsity Network app, TuneIn, Sirius XM Channel 382 and channel 972 on the SXM app, RedStormSports.com and the St. John’s Red Storm mobile app.
The Red Storm (8-3) is coming off an 18-day break between games, the second longest in-season pause in program history. Only the 1922-23 team, which went 20 days between outings against Brooklyn Prep Alumni and Niagara, went longer without competition during the course of a campaign.
The Johnnies last took the court on Dec. 18, a 59-57 loss against Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden. Playing without the services of leading scorer Julian Champagnie, the Red Storm scored a season-low 57 points 34.9 percent shooting from the field. Champagnie currently ranks second in the BIG EAST and 18th nationally in scoring at 20.3 points per game. In addition to his offensive prowess, the 6-foot-8 wing also ranks second in the league in steals (2.1 per game) and ninth in blocked shots (1.5 per game) while leading the team in rebounding at 6.7 per contest.
Champagnie is not the only Johnnie who stuffs the stat sheet with regularity, as Posh Alexander enters Wednesday’s contest averaging 15.9 points, 5.1 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals per contest. The sophomore from Brooklyn ranks seventh in the BIG EAST in scoring and third in assists while leading the conference and sitting ninth nationally with 2.6 steals per contest. Alexander, who has reached double figures in all 10 of his appearances, became just the third player in BIG EAST history to win the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards simultaneously a season ago.
In the team’s last outing against Pittsburgh, sophomore guard Dylan Addae-Wusu led the Johnnies with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting. The Bronx native will look to carry a stretch of stellar play to the other side of the break, as he has reached double figures in five straight outings and six of his last seven appearances overall. Beginning with a career-high 16-point effort on Dec. 3 against Kansas, Addae-Wusu is averaging 12.0 points and a team-best 5.2 assists per outing over his last five games. On Dec. 5 against Fordham, the Our Saviour Lutheran product posted 11 points and a career-best 11 assists for his first collegiate double-double.
Despite their offensive woes against Pittsburgh, the Red Storm still ranks among the nation’s top offensive units, leading the BIG EAST and sitting 15th nationally with 82.6 points per game. According to KenPom, the Johnnies rank 12th nationally in adjusted tempo with 73.5 possessions per game and second in average possession length at 14.6 seconds.
After going 9-1 during the non-conference portion of its schedule with wins over the likes of Louisville and Rutgers, DePaul dropped each of its first two BIG EAST outings. The Blue Demons lost by four, 63-59, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Dec. 29 before falling by 17, 70-53, at home against Providence on New Year’s Day.
The Blue Demons boast the only player in the BIG EAST with a better scoring average than Champagnie in senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty. Freeman-Liberty, whose scoring average is 0.03 ppg higher than Champagnie, leads four Blue Demons in double figures. David Jones, who had 33 points and 14 boards in the road win over Louisville, averages 16.1 points per game and is the team’s leading rebounder at 8.3 boards per contest. Brandon Johnson (11.4 ppg) and Nick Ongenda (10.7 ppg) also average better than 10 points per game for the Blue Demons.
DePaul (9-3, 0-2 BIG EAST) is under the direction of first-year head coach Tony Stubblefield, who came to Chicago following a successful decade-long stint as an assistant and associate head coach at Oregon.