It’s not how the the team starts. It’s how the team responds.
Led by Julian Champagnie, bench players Dylan Addae-Wusu and Marcellus Earlington, and a hot second half, St. John’s finished Big East play with a 81-71 win over Seton Hall. St. John’s ends the regular season at 16-10, 10-9 in the Big East.
The winning record in league play is the team’s first since 2014-15. And the Red Storm skip the Wednesday first round games and get the fifth seed in the Big East Tournament; they begin play on Thursday at 3 PM.
St. John’s, once again without Posh Alexander, endured possibly the worst possible start a team could have on senior night.
St. John’s found themselves scoreless until the 13 minute mark. Seton Hall started on an 18-0 run — not on crazy three-point shooting, not on turnovers from the Red Storm, but from solid, basic execution and shots at the rim. Seton Hall had struggled for five games, unable to find efficient scoring, but the size of the Pirates allowed them to establish early dominance.
St. John’s — a victim of poor shooting on a night when both seniors (Rasheem Dunn and Arnaldo Toro) started — got nothing going until Dylan Addae-Wusu’s layup. Not much was going right, but the bench, and the team’s defensive energy, turned the tables in the game.
The Red Storm started fighting back, with John McGriff’s energy and Josh Roberts making plays on both ends. The Johnnies whittled the 18-point deficit to as little as 6, but some indifferent defense left the halftime margin at 10.
Still, the fundamentals were not bad. The Red Storm’s best scorers were inefficient, the Hall was not as dominant as they were early in the game, and St. John’s brought a better/ different energy to the floor over the last ten minutes of the first half.
Red Storm got started in the second half by getting to the rim on three consecutive shots from Williams, Dunn and Champagnie. Josh Roberts played good minutes defensively; the team used a zone to slow the Pirates; and Greg Williams Jr. played good minutes as the lead ballhandler.
And they got hot. Seton Hall’s struggling offense gave a real shot the the Red Storm. After a Vince Cole three-pointer, the Red Storm cut the deficit to 2 points, and a Marcellus Earlington late shot clock three pointer with 14 minutes to go.
The St. John’s advantage was as much as 12 and as low as five for a stretch; the Johnnies, despite some early turnovers in the half, were not missing shots from the field. At one point, the Red Storm were 14/18 from the field.
With four minutes left, Seton Hall began cutting in to the lead. After a pair of three-pointers, the Pirates cut the deficit to five with 44 seconds to go. Julian Champagnie’s free throw shooting calmly salted away the game.
Next for St. John’s is the Big East Tournament.