The Red Storm found the right groove from fairly early on in the game and, behind a strong overall offensive performance, raced away from the Hoyas for their first Big East win, 94-83 in the rematch of last week’s game in Washington D.C.
St. John’s improves to 6-4, 1-3 in the Big East. Georgetown drops to 3-4, 1-2 in the Big East.
Coach Mike Anderson started Arnaldo Toro and Vince Cole in place of Isaih Moore and Rasheem Dunn, respectively, for the Red Storm. And while some were surprised by Toro’s inclusion, he quickly made his ability felt by slowing down center Qudus Wahab of the Hoyas. With Wahab slowed — and after an early run by Georgetown — the Red Storm settled in nicely.
St. John’s shot 50% from beyond the arc in a first half that saw them lead by as many as 16 points — and a half that saw them unaffected by the Hoya size. In the 20 minutes, Georgetown managed only one block while the Red Storm moved the ball well and freely. St. John’s also shot an uncharacteristic 53% from deep, and took more than half their shots beyond the three-point line.
While the numbers looked uncommon, the Red Storm looked comfortable in those shots. Vince Cole was particularly strong early.
“We know what Vince is capable of doing,” Mike Anderson said after the game. Reflecting on giving Cole the start, he noted that Cole was more engaged on defense and more confident on the floor.
But Cole’s hot start gave way to performances from Greg Williams Jr. (a career-high 26 points) and Julian Champagnie (20 points, nine rebounds) to push the Johnnies ahead.
Starting with a halftime deficit of 11, the Hoyas peeled off enough points to get within two in the second half. Jamorko Pickett’s two field goals came in that stretch, as the Hoyas chipped away with an 8-0 run that felt like Georgetown finding their rhythm.
But the Red Storm reacted with a defensive run, stopping two Pickett attempts, and a short run from Champagnie and Williams. A 15-3 run salted the game away, though the Hoyas’ Jahvon Blair’s scoring brought the final score to within 11.
“We learned a bit about our basketball team. They made a run,” Greg Williams said, “and we made a run and kept it going; i think that was a step in the right direction.”
The Red Storm did a solid job, forcing Wahab to foul out. Toro made some solid rebounding plays, kept rebounds alive for teammates. Posh Alexander was a steady ballhandler, and had an effective attacking spurt in the second half to keep the pressure on Patrick Ewing’s squad during the 15-3 run.
There were over aggressive mistakes, as well, and the Red Storm committed seven turnovers to two in the first half. Still, the jumpers were falling, Isaih Moore made his presence felt offensively inside, and the team was making their presence felt more on defense.
“I thought we were connected,” Mike Anderson said. “We came out with a defensive mindset, trusting each other. To play the way we are going to play, we’ve got to be connected. We’ve got to trust each other.”
The Red Storm now have what may be an extended break, after Villanova asked to reschedule their December 30th game to allow players to go home for a break. The Johnnies’ next scheduled game is against DePaul on January 2nd; DePaul has yet to step onto a court for an official game.