St. John’s sweeps Providence for the first time in six years with a 81-67. The Red Storm, who had four in double figures and two players with double doubles, improve to 15-10, 9-9 in the Big East. Providence drops to 12-12, 8-10 in the league.
St. John’s entered the game knowing their star guard Posh Alexander was going to sit with his wrist injury. The team needed the win to get a chance at a bye on the first day of the Big East Tournament — in the new league configuration, the bottom six teams have to play on the first day, while the top five rest an extra night.
The beginning of the game, after eight days off from the last game (a loss at Villanova) was a struggle.
The Red Storm could not get to the rim (though that is often a problem against Providence’s packed-in defense and size). But the loss of Alexander was felt — too many turnovers, too few turnovers forced, struggles covering the Friars in transition, struggles pushing Providence to a pace more of the Red Storm’s liking.
The middle of the first half saw a lot of versatility from Isaih Moore — who scored close to the rim, but also competed on the glass and whipped a nice pass in to Julian Champagnie cutting to the basket — and the scoring of Champagnie. And still, the Red Storm were down by 11 points, looking a bit lost, allowing too many points in the paint, and defending with lackluster energy.
The Johnnies came out of the half with extra pep in their step on both ends. They buried their deficit in ten minutes of clock time, moving the ball faster, defending with confidence and energy, and making enough shots to speed up the Friars.
The Red Storm did a better job doubling on big man Nate Watson, who scored 30 against the Red Storm in their previous game and looked poised to dominate the second half against the Johnnies tonight. Marcellus Earlington and Isaih Moore fought to keep him from his touches, pushing the Friar offense farther from the rim.
After some back and forth play, the Johnnies got some stops, and Greg Williams Jr. had a dunk and a three off a Champagnie feed to bring the team closer. The sputtering Friars could not string runs together after the 12-1 and 10-0 runs of the first half.
Watson was removed for a stretch in the middle of the half. And once Watson was out, Rasheem Dunn had room to get into the paint.
Rasheem Dunn was critical in an 11-0 run, where he:
- hit a desperation three,
- hit a layup after snatching the ball from Noah Horchler’s hands, and
- j’d up AJ Reeves
He had 18 of his season-high 21 points in the second half and hit a pair of threes (his fourth and fifth three-pointer made this season).
Providence, who tied the game twice, were down double digits in the last four minutes of the game, displaying some fatigue from facing the Johnnies.
A big win for the Red Storm, with one more home game against rival Seton Hall on Saturday night.
For St. John’s, the conference regular season gets bookended with Seton Hall. The Pirates were the first Big East opponents for the Red Storm, and the Pirates, who have been struggling, may see a different set of Johnnies.
St. John’s got 21 points and three assists from Rasheem Dunn; 16 points and 10 rebounds (all defensive) from Champagnie, who also had two steals; 15 points from Greg Williams Jr., starting in place of Posh Alexander; and 10 points, 11 rebounds and a team-high tying three assists from Isaih Moore.
Providence got 19 from Nate Watson; 16 points and nine rebounds from David Duke before he fouled out; and 13 from Jared Bynum off the bench.
The Red Storm won despite shooting 25% from deep. Providence shot 17% from distance, including 0/9 in the second half.
St. John’s was outscored in the paint 46-34 in the contest, but got 21 fast break points in the second half (compared to two in the first).