After an uninspired first half, the Red Storm’s second half adjustments helped the Johnnies past Saint Peter’s, 79-69.
St. John’s took on another team in the bottom third of NCAA, according to Saint Peter’s ranking 332 in KenPom Rating.
As more challenging opponent’s are quickly approaching for the Johnnies, including West Virginia on Saturday, it was important that St. John’s not just win, but win in a way that the team can collectively scale up as the season drifts along.
Despite getting the win, St. John’s performance did not appear to build on the success they had against Wagner.
In the first half, the Red Storm were the beneficiaries several misses by Saint Peter’s both nearly uncontested shots at point blank range and open shots from deep. Saint Peter’s shot 28% from the field and 15% from deep, but had a couple more of those uncontested looks at the basket been converted, St. John’s seemingly unimpressive 14-point lead at the half should have been single digits.
Offensively, the Red Storm exploded early, then settled into an AAU-style iso-heavy style — letting Saint Peter’s stick around. The Johnnies had 12 assists on the 14 made field goals in the first half, but half of those assists came in the first seven minutes of the half.
One of the key facilitator’s to St. John’s success, particularly early in the first half, was Julian Champagnie. At the half, Champagnie and Mustapha Heron led all scorers with 8 points each, and Champagnie did so off 3/5 shooting from the floor and 2/2 from deep in addition to 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
Despite St. John’s long stretches of unfocused play on both ends, the Johnnies went into the half up 37-23.
After the break, the Red Storm picked it up on defense. Unlike the first half, the Johnnie defense was flying around, contesting looks, and contributing to what led the Peacocks to miss shots.
Part of what made the looks at the basket so available for Saint Peter’s in the first half was their ability to draw Josh Roberts away from the rim. While the Peacocks did get several uncontested looks at the rim in the first half, Roberts did everything he could to get back and contest, which led to his four blocks in the contest.
Offensively in the second half, the ball movement was more consistent than the first half, and as such, the 12 second-half assists were not as bunched as they were prior to the break. After a rough shooting night against Wagner, LJ Figueroa appeared to have found his stroke again, particularly after the break. Figueroa put up 12 points off of an efficient 3/5 from the floor and 1/2 from deep.
Saint Peter’s found a way to make things interesting late. With just under seven minutes left in the game, the Peacocks went on a 19-2 run to pull the game within 6 points, taking advantage of six St. John’s turnovers in the stretch.
The Peacocks could not muster the offensive firepower late, and Figueroa knocked down a couple late free throws to secure the victory.
However, generally, St. John’s re-inspired second half defense and re-commitment to ball movement after the break helped the Johnnies pull away with a big lead, beating the Peacocks 79-69.
St. John’s heads into Manhattan for their first Madison Square Garden game of the season to take on former a Big East foe, the West Virginia Mountaineers, on Saturday at noon as part of the 2019-20 Big 12/Big East Scheduling Alliance Matchups.
St. John’s Red Storm
LJ Figueroa: 19 points (6/11 FG, 2/4 3PT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers
Mustapha Heron: 17 points (5/13 FG, 3/8 3PT), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 turnovers
Julian Champagnie (first career double-double): 14 points (6/13 FG, 2/3 3PT), 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover
Saint Peter’s Peacocks
Aaron Estrada: 18 points (8/12 FG, 2/4 3PT), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnovers