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St. John’s Men’s Basketball Sinks DePaul 89-84, in BIG EAST Opener

Coming into the Red Storm’s BIG EAST opener against DePaul on Wednesday, Julian Champagnie had not suited up for a game in 24 days.  The junior shook off the rust with a career effort, posting 34 points and 16 boards to lead the Red Storm to an 89-84 win over the Blue Demons.

Champagnie went 12-of-22 from the floor, including a 4-for-7 showing from deep, eclipsing by one point his previous career high of 33 set last season at Creighton.  The Brooklyn native’s 16 boards shattered his old high-water mark of 13 achieved last February in a win over No. 3 Villanova at Carnesecca Arena.  The double-double marked Champagnie’s third of the season and the 14th such effort of his collegiate tenure.  The Bishop Loughlin product became the first St. John’s player to record a double-double with 30-plus points and 15-plus boards since D’Angelo Harrison logged 31 points and 17 caroms against Franklin Pierce on Nov. 17, 2014.   For good measure, Champagnie also tallied a game-high three rejections.

Champagnie was not the only Johnnie to enjoy a career night against the Blue Demons.  Dylan Addae-Wusu set a new personal-best with 17 points, including a dagger 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the contest.  In addition, the Bronx native also dished out a game-high eight assists and tallied a pair of steals in 36 minutes of action. 

Posh Alexander sank his first three 3-point tries of the night on his way to 16 points.  The sophomore, who entered the game ranked third in the BIG EAST in assists, dished out four helpers.

The fourth Johnnie in double figures, Montez Mathis scored six of his 11 points during a crucial second-half run that helped the Red Storm turn a five-point deficit into a two-point advantage near the midway mark of the period.

As a team, St. John’s shot 18-of-31 (58.1%) from the floor in the second half.  On the evening, the Johnnies converted on 10 of their 18 attempts from beyond the arc and blocked a season-high 11 shots.

For the second straight game, Joel Soriano grabbed nine boards for the Johnnies.  The junior from Yonkers also tallied three blocks.

Aaron Wheeler chipped in five points and three boards in a season-high 31 minutes of action while O’Mar Stanley made several key defensive plays in his 18 minutes.  Esahia Nyiwe needed just eight minutes to block a pair of shots.

The Red Storm (9-3, 1-0 BIG EAST) has started off conference play with a win for the first time since 2016-17.  The Johnnies are now 10-4 in their last 14 league games.

Coming off an 18-day layoff, the Red Storm made just three of its first 10 field goal attempts before a Soriano dunk and back-to-back buckets from Champagnie put the Red Storm ahead 15-8 with just over five minutes gone in the contest. 

DePaul (9-4, 0-3 BIG EAST) clawed back within a pair, 23-21, before the Red Storm embarked on a 9-0 run to move ahead by double digits, 32-21, on a steal-and-slam from Mathis with five minutes to go.

The Blue Demons cut into the St. John’s lead one more time in the opening stanza, as a last-second Alexander layup sent the Red Storm into the locker room with a four-point edge, 39-35.

Alexander was sensational for the Red Storm on the other side of the break, knocking down a pair of triples and scoring the team’s first eight points of the second stanza in less than two minutes of action. 

After trailing by as many as eight, DePaul trimmed its deficit to one, 51-50, with a 7-0 run before moving ahead 54-53 on a dunk from Javon Freeman-Liberty with 13:50 to play for the Blue Demons’ first lead since 4-2. 

That 7-0 DePaul spurt kick-started a larger 17-4 Blue Demons run, putting the visitors on top by as many five, 60-55, with 12 minutes remaining. 

The DePaul lead would not last.  Beginning with a pair of Mathis free throws, the Red Storm outscored the Blue Demons 10-3 over the next three minutes to pull back ahead by two, 65-63. 

The two teams traded leads four times over the next minute of play before the Johnnies regained the advantage for good on a Champagnie midrange jumper with 7:14 to go.  Beginning with that shot, Champagnie scored 14 of the team’s final 20 points. 

The Red Storm will return to action on Saturday when it travels to Providence for a noon tip against the No. 16 Friars.

St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson

Opening statement…

I’m proud of our guys and of the effort coming off of a pause, not having practiced together in about 18 or 19 days. We found a way to win in conference play. … Defensively, we did some good things. Of course, offensively, you get the kind of night that Julian [Champagnie] had. It was like he refused to let us go down. Guys did a really good job of getting him the ball, he made some tough shots and rebounded the basketball. I thought on defense he was spectacular. [It is] a good team win. I can’t say enough about Posh [Alexander] who went down and came back. Winning is important to him. He didn’t want to let his team down. We’re a team that has a lot of different parts and we just want to continue to get more parts that are working.”

On Julian Champagnie…

Nothing surprises me with this kid because he is one of the hardest working kids. I’ve had some pretty good kids that worked hard, Joe Johnson, [who] played for us at Arkansas, and Bobby Portis. He’s in that mold in terms of putting time in on his game. It’s good to see it pay off for him. Each year, he keeps making that next-level improvement, even tonight. It says a lot about him and what kind of player he is.”

On battling back from a five-point second half deficit…

I thought we had some timeouts and got our composure [back]. I thought we got some other guys in there to give us some energy. O’Mar [Stanley] was one of those guys out there. I thought our energy was good going down the stretch. We dug deep and made stops. We did a good job of making some plays, getting to the basket and the free throw line going down the stretch.”

On what he learned about his team after an 18-day pause…

Adversity. You rise to the occasion. I thought, tonight, they rose to the occasion. There’s a lot that has been thrown at this team. You think about last year, we didn’t have any COVID situations. This year was a little different. It’s something that nobody has dealt with before. I’m proud [that] they came out and played as a team.”

On what he saw from Dylan Addae-Wusu on the clutch three-pointer…

“I saw a guy that was still in control of himself and wanting to make a play. That play for Dylan sometimes is not even shooting the basketball. He’s put time in on his game. He’s a capable shooter. It was a big shot.”

Junior forward Julian Champagnie

On starting BIG EAST play with a win…

“It was a big win. You always want to start off on a good note and put your best foot forward. I thought we did that tonight. We faced some adversity, but I’m super proud of my teammates for how we fought for that win.”

On a strong return after 24 elapsed days since he’s played in a game…

“I jumped right into workouts my first day out. I was in the gym for four hours. … Getting in the gym, getting my rhythm back, my shot back is what helped me pushed forward. Also, my teammates, none of this is possible without them believing in me. Those were the two main factors in my performance.”

Sophomore guard Dylan Addae-Wusu

On netting a career-high 17 points…

“Everything was in a flow, scoring, lay-ups and back cuts. Shoutout to my teammates for finding me [for open shots] and keeping me motivated after a bad first half. They kept praising me to keep going.”

On draining a deep three to put the Red Storm up six with 28.4 seconds to go…

“My teammates and coaches believe in me to make plays. That’s what I did at the end [of the game] when I had the ball in my hands.”

On teammate Julian Champagnie scoring a game-high 34 points…

“That’s the player he is. I sat back and thought I was inside of a video game. … It was amazing. It shows his work-ethic and how hungry he was to play.”

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