The Red Storm twice erased a deficit of eight-plus points in the second half, but a late scoring drought downed the Johnnies’ upset bid against No. 15/15 Providence, as the Friars escaped Carnesecca Arena with an 86-82 victory on Tuesday.
Ahead 74-72 after a slashing layup from Posh Alexander with 3:34 to go, St. John’s went without a point for the next 3:15, as three consecutive turnovers sank the Red Storm (11-9, 3-6 BIG EAST).
With the win, Providence moved to 19-2 on the season and improved its league-leading record to 9-1 in BIG EAST play.
Alexander did everything in his power to will St. John’s to a win, but his efforts came up short. The sophomore guard from Brooklyn shattered his career-highs with 29 points and 12 assists. 19 of his points and seven of his helpers came after the intermission.
Aaron Wheeler scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and shot 7-for-11 on the game. The Purdue transfer has now reached double figures in seven of his last eight appearances.
Dylan Addae-Wusu also finished in double figures, netting 10 points to go along with five assists.
Julian Champagnie tallied eight points on 4-of-11 shooting and five rebounds while Montez Mathis added nine points and six boards.
The tide of the game turned at the free throw line, where Providence made 27 of its 33 attempts, including 11 of its final 12. St. John’s sank just four of its 11 tries from the charity stripe.
St. John’s converted 14 Providence turnovers into eight points. The Friars, on the other hand, scored 23 points off 16 Red Storm miscues.
After the teams traded blows over the game’s first few minutes, Providence used a 6-0 burst to open a seven-point lead, 22-15, with 8:55 to go.
The Red Storm responded by scoring 10 of the game’s next 13 points, tying the contest at 25 following back-to-back treys from Addae-Wusu.
Providence moved ahead by as many as eight late in the period, but it looked as if the Johnnies might significantly narrow the gap following a flagrant foul call with 6.2 seconds remaining. Instead, the Friars managed to outscore the Johnnies, 3-1, over the remainder of the half and take an eight-point lead into the locker room.
The Johnnies fell behind by 10 on the first possession of the second half, but responded with a 15-5 run to tie the game at 47, a spurt that was capped by a thunderous fast-break alley-oop from Alexander to Wheeler.
The Red Storm took its first lead since 13-12 on an Esahia Nyiwe slam that made it 51-49 with 13:49 remaining. The Friars, however, quickly responded with a 10-0 run to move back ahead by eight less than two minutes later.
Facing another sizeable deficit, the Red Storm slowly started to chip away, knotting the contest at 70 following a 9-2 run with 5:07 to play. Wheeler scored the first five points of the rally with a 3-pointer and a dunk.
Back-to-back buckets from Alexander gave the Red Storm a two-point edge, 74-72, before the Johnnies were outscored 8-0 over the next three-plus minutes.
Tareq Coburn, Addae-Wusu and Alexander sank late buckets to make it a one-possession game on three separate occasions, but Al Durham went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the final 26 seconds to seal the Providence victory.
Durham, one of four Friars in double figures, scored 12 of his 14 points at the charity stripe. Jared Bynum scored a team-high 19 points thanks in large part to 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Nate Watson netted 16 points and Noah Horchler added 14.
St. John’s will have a quick turnaround, hitting the road for a pair of BIG EAST games beginning on Thursday in Washington against Georgetown. Tip-off from McDonough Arena is set for 6 p.m. on FS1.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“First off, I want to thank Johnnies Nation, our students and our fans, for coming out and creating a great atmosphere. We were disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to deliver the win. It was the first one that we’ve taken on the chin here at home. We lost to a team that’s hot, that’s playing well. [Jared] Bynum made some big plays. [Providence] got some loose balls in the second half. In the second half, I thought our energy was totally different. I thought we were in attack mode and our defense was really in tune. They made some big plays. … One thing about our guys [is] they’re resilient. We’ve got a disappointed locker room in there right now. I told them you have to have short-term memory. The games keep coming at us.”
On the end of the first half…
“We made an errant pass. We turned it over and then we fouled. We didn’t do a good job of getting the ball in. [Dylan Addae-Wusu] threw it low to Julian [Champagnie] and it [was] deflected. With that being said, you have time to get back and get your defense lined up and we fouled. We had a play to get the ball in.”
On the team’s progress at this point of the season…
“It’s frustrating at some point in time, because I thought this team would be a little further along. They’re working hard. We’ve got some other guys that are starting to step up and play, but the key guys have to continue to play well too. Posh [Alexander] had an unbelievable night. He willed us into it. Some other guys gave us some good minutes. We have to stay at it and stay together.”
On the narrow loss to no. 15/15 Providence…
“Trust me. No one feels worse when we lose a game than me. I put pressure on myself and on my guys as well. This game came down to the free-throw line. You have to go to the line and knock shots down. We’re almost [there], but you can’t keep being almost [there]. We have to make that step to get over the hump. This league is good. It has good teams. [There are] guys that are making plays and we have to have guys that make plays as well.”
On the free-throw shooting…
“It’s something we work on every day. [Our] guys just have to have to go up there and knock them down. That’s part of it, especially in these games. It’s the little things that add up to winning. Against teams like [Providence], you have to be able to stop what they’re doing by getting to the free-throw line, to neutralize some of the things they’re doing. … We made four free-throws; they made 27. It’s a four-point game. That’s personal.”
Sophomore guard Posh Alexander…
On what has gone wrong late in games …
“We are in close games with these teams. Like I said before, it’s just bad decision making down the [stretch]. As guards, we’re not helping the big men rebound, we need to rebound as a unit.”
On the fan support tonight…
“It was amazing. … We really appreciate the fans coming out and supporting us. I know we didn’t come out the win, but it’s still great to have them in the gym cheering us on. … We want them to come to many more home games as [the season] goes on.”
Graduate student forward Aaron Wheeler…
On shifting the team’s focus to its next contest at Georgetown at Thursday…
“[We will] get back to work. That’s a great part about it, we’re already getting ready to play again in two days. The guys are going to be eager and get out there to make-up for this loss. That’s the thing about these guys, we play hard and we will bounce back.”
On the free-throw struggles…
“I know myself included [I’ve struggled]. Guys just have to focus a little more when they’re shooting. We see it in practice that we are capable of it.”
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