In the first ever basketball game UBS Arena, St. John’s turned a double-digit deficit into a one-possession game before Kansas loudly slammed the door, 95-75.
One might have expected this game to come down to which team imposed their pace. Coming into the game, St. John’s ranked 4th in the country with 79 possessions per game while Kansas ranked 181st with 71.3 possessions per game.
Despite the game being played at St. John’s pace for most of the first half, each team finished with at least 73 possessions with the much more methodical Jayhawks determining the pace late.
In the first half, outside of the first four minutes or so, St. John’s kept up effectively with Kansas. The Jayhawks went into the first media timeout up 13-2, and from there, the Red Storm stayed about 10 to 13 points behind for the remainder of the half.
Part of St. John’s struggles early include Joel Soriano’s foul trouble. Soriano fouled David McCormack twice in the first four minutes. In that same stretch with Soriano on him, McCormack was also two for two from the field.
Despite the Red Storm’s struggles dealing with the Kansas big with Soriano on the floor, the Jayhawks stopped running their offense through McCormack once Soriano was off the floor. Despite fewer designed touches, McCormack exposed a St. John’s flaw that has haunted the program since the early Mullin era. McCormack pulled down 5 of Kansas’s 10 offensive rebounds in the half, which largely contributed to Kansas’s 11 second chance points.
In addition to giving Kansas second chances on the glass, the Red Storm also lost the turnover battle 12-9. Kansas was also more effective at capitalizing on the turnovers as they had 11 points off turnovers to St. John’s 6.
Despite the is rebounding and turnover issues, St. John’s bench found a way to keep the Red Storm down only 13 going into the half. The Johnnie bench that only had 2 points in the first half against NJIT outscored the Jayhawk bench 10 to 4, led by Dylan Addae-Wusu’s seven.
The Johnnies’ bench was able to keep Red Storm within 13 going into the half, only 2 points more than St. John’s was four minutes into the contest.
After the half, the St. John’s starters, with Dylan Addae-Wusu replacing Stef Smith to start the second half, punched back. Within the first minute of the second half, the Red Storm cut the Jayhawk lead down to nine, and from there they kept chipping.
With the fatigue factor setting in for the slower Jayhawks, St. John’s began slowly clawing their way towards the lead.
Julian Champagnie put the program on his back for an impressive eight-minute stretch where he hit his first five three-pointers of the half. Champagnie’s performance got the Red Storm within three of Kansas with 11 minutes remaining.
Unfortunately for St. John’s, Kansas responded with an 18-2 run over the following six minutes. St. John’s went on a five minute stretch without scoring a point until Addae-Wusu knocked down a pair of free throws before fouling out of the game.
For the final five minutes of the game, the only signs of life from the Red Storm were a pair of technical fouls given to Coach Mike Anderson and Posh Alexander going into the final media timeout.
The final few minutes of the contest were a mere formality at that point with Kansas winning big, 95-75.
St. John’s Red Storm
Julian Champagnie: 24 Points (7/13 FG, 6/9 3PT), 8 Rebounds
Dylan Addae-Wusu: 16 Points (4/7 FG, 2/5 3PT), 2 Rebounds, 4 Assists
Posh Alexander: 16 Points (6/9 FG, 1/3 3PT), 1 Rebound, 3 Assists
Christian Braun: 31 Points (10/16 FG, 2/4 3PT), 8 Rebounds, 4 Assists
Ochai Agbaji: 23 Points (9/16 FG, 5/9 3PT), 7 Rebounds, 1 Assist