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St. John’s bounces back with 78-63 win over UMass

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Bench steps up in second half to propel team to victory; Josh Roberts, David Caraher shine.

Wendell Cruz

St. John’s finished the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off with a late spurt to win, 78-63, over Massachusetts in the consolation game.

It was an error-filled game against UMass, one that saw Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa combine for 13 points — but the Red Storm still won in grind-it-out fashion.

In a sparsely filled arena, in front of a few hundred St. John’s and UMass partisans, St. John’s started solidly, and... started to struggle mightily against Massachusetts length and shooting. The Red Storm held the lead for much of the half; they forced turnovers from UMass. They went to the foul line.

But the team could not hit free throw shots, going 6/13 from the charity stripe in the half. Josh Roberts was effective, looking to expand his game, but LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Heron were a sluggish 4/9 combined for 11 points.

Moreover, Massachusetts was comfortable on the floor. When they didn’t turn the ball over, they scored at will, with freshman guard TJ Weeks pumping in 17 of the Minutemen’s 38 in the half.

With the Minutemen in the lead coming out of the half, the Red Storm came out sluggish. Mustapha Heron, whose offensive struggles were evident in the first half (passing up on shots, missing free throws), continued in the second with a pair of turnovers.

The Johnnies turned to David Caraher.

Caraher, the Houston Baptist transfer who was a prolific scorer at that low-major school, started shooting from outside of the arc, and continued through the half with drives for scores, decent defense, and gave the team a lift.

The Red Storm were down by five when a 12-0 run from Caraher, Marcellus Earlington and Julian Champagnie tilted the game late in the Red Storm’s favor.

Josh Roberts’ defense kept the Minutemen star Tre Mitchell quieter than he had been in the first half, and he energetically followed some Johnnie misses with dunks. Earlington showed transition speed and had some solid defensive moments, and Champagnie did a solid job cleaning the defensive glass.

By the end of the game, the confluence of Massachusetts youth and the Red Storm’s ability to stop them at the rim led to a 15-point victory.

St. John’s Red Storm

Josh Roberts 16 points (8/12 FG), 8 rebounds (4 off.), 3 blocks

David Caraher 17 points (6/8 FG, 3/5 3PT), 3 rebounds, 2 TO

Julian Champagnie 12 points (3/6 FG, 1/2 3PT), 7 rebounds, 3 steals

LJ Figueroa 7 points (3/9 FG, 1/4 3PT), 6 steals

Massachusetts Minutemen

TJ Weeks 19 points (5/15 FG, 2/8 3PT)

Tre Mitchell 14 points (4/12 FG, 1/6 3PT), 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 8 turnovers

Keon Clergot 11 points (4/6 FG, 3/5 3PT), 5 turnovers