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St. John’s Soars Past DePaul, 92-73, in BIG EAST Opener

The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team erased an early 10-point deficit and never looked back against DePaul in the opening round of the BIG EAST Tournament, defeating the Blue Demons, 92-73, on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The Red Storm, which has advanced to the tournament’s quarterfinal round for the sixth consecutive season, will face second-seeded Villanova on Thursday at 7 p.m. on FS1.

Julian Champagnie scored 22 of his game-high 26 points in the opening half.  The two-time First Team All-BIG EAST selection also grabbed seven boards and came away with two steals. 

Two other Johnnies finished in double figures, as Stef Smith tallied 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting.  Esahia Nyiwe finished one board shy of a double-double, scoring 10 points and setting a new career-high with nine rebounds.

Posh AlexanderAaron Wheeler, Joel Soriano and Dylan Addae-Wusu scored eight points apiece for the Johnnies (17-14).  Alexander and Addae-Wusu dished out seven and five assists, respectively.  Montez Mathis added seven points for the Red Storm.

As a team, St. John’s assisted on 22 of its 37 made baskets and set a BIG EAST Tournament record by committing only two turnovers.  The old record of three was set by Georgetown against Boston College on March 6, 1987.

The Red Storm’s 92 points marked the program’s second-highest total in 39 years of BIG EAST Tournament appearances.

The first four minutes of the contest were all DePaul, as the Blue Demons made five of their first seven from the field to grab a 12-2 lead.  The Red Storm responded with a 12-2 run of its own, tying the game at 14 on a Mathis 3-pointer with seven and a half gone in the game.

That 12-2 spurt kick-started a larger 24-5 run for the Red Storm, as 10 straight points from the Red Storm made it 26-17 and forced a DePaul timeout with just over eight minutes remaining in the half. 

The Blue Demons answered with a 7-0 spurt to make it a two-point game, but Champagnie promptly rattled off a personal 9-0 run to restore the Red Storm lead. 

St. John’s held DePaul scoreless for the final 3:21 of the half and scored the period’s last 11 points, taking a 49-29 lead into the locker room. 

DePaul trimmed the St. John’s lead to 17 in the opening minutes of the second half, but that was as close as the Blue Demons would get the rest of the way.  The Red Storm led by as many as 27 with seven minutes to go in the contest.


St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson

Opening Statement…

“First, I’m very proud of the efforts of our guys coming out. … The first game you never know how your guys are going to come out in tournament play. I thought the nerves were going. I thought we were subbing early on and we went to our bench. Let’s talk about our bench. They were very productive tonight. Esahia [Nyiwe], Stef [Smith], Dylan [Addae-Wusu], anyone we brought off the bench. I thought they brought a certain swag, energy and attack mode and I thought that really got us going. When you play a game where you play this many guys and you [only commit] two turnovers. I’m looking at the turnover points, 24 to zero. Totally efficient basketball. But I’ll go back to my statement previewing this game, we had to play defense. We had to guard and I thought they we did. It was a good team win, the first of the tournament. Only way to survive in this tournament is to win. I’m just proud of our guys. They get to enjoy it for a couple hours and get ready for our next opponent, which is an outstanding Villanova team.”

On being down 12-2 at the first timeout and what he told the team…

“We have to play defense. We have to guard guys, they’re getting layups. We’re not contesting at the rim. I just thought we were playing soft. Then I thought the intensity picked up and that switched the team. You got to find somebody to help ignite that and I thought those guys coming out, Dylan [Addae-Wusu], Stef [Smith], Esahia [Nyiwe], Montez [Mathis], and all of a sudden the energy is out there and everyone else just started following suit. We got to hang around with defense this time of year. With this team here, the depth and these have guys played in quality minutes. So you call upon them and the experience that they got. It’s one game, but it allows us to move onto the next round.”

On the matchup with Villanova…

“We have to hang around with our defense and continue to play efficient on the offensive end. I don’t want [Villanova] to just pay attention to one guy, I want them to pay attention to all our guys. It’s got to be about our defense, taking care of the basketball, getting to the free throw line. … Obviously, Villanova is tremendous shooting the basketball, so we have to play with some insane energy, cover and rotate, and fix things, rebound the basketball. We played them early in the year here and they were up 20 and we made a run at them. But again, there’s a reason why they’re one of the top ten teams in the country. It’s a great challenge, a great opportunity. … Our attention is on the next team up, we got to be ready.”

On Posh Alexander’s resilience…

“He didn’t want to come out, as a matter of fact. I had to force him to sit out. That tells you his will to win and tolerate the nicks and injuries he’s had all year long. He’s got a toughness that a lot of people don’t have. I think he was there for his team and you could see the results. Seven assists, zero turnovers, made his free throws. We made our free throws tonight. So again, he showed me the mindset of a true leader.”

Junior forward Julian Champagnie…

On the how the team performed in its BIG EAST Tournament opener…

“We’ve had glimpses of this over the course of the season. … We’re sticking to our identity and preaching to what Coach [Mike Anderson] preaches to us in practice. We’re staying the course and trusting each other.”

On setting a BIG EAST Tournament record for fewest turnovers in a game…

“Coach [Mike Anderson] always preaches about taking care of the basketball. That’s what we key ourselves on, take care of the ball and get out in transition. It wasn’t a thought process, we needed to take care of the basketball. We want to win games and that’s the way to win games.”

On the team’s sense of urgency tonight…

“I thought we came out and played hard. … We understand what’s on the line right now. We have a goal we want to attain and we understand what we have to do to attain that goal.”

Graduate student guard Stef Smith…

On Julian Champagnie’s 22-point first-half performance…

“It’s unbelievable to watch. As his teammate, you have to make sure you’re getting him the ball. I thought we did a pretty good job of doing that. We understand he’s just going to have those nights.”

On the team’s depth with 40 bench points in tonight’s contest…

“I think it shows the depth that we have, especially in March that’s really important. … It’s important that we have all hands on deck. When our number is called, we need to play as efficiently as possible.”

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