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St. John’s Champagnie Powers Team Past DePaul, 92-73

Red Storm advance to the Big East Tournament quarterfinals for sixth straight season

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-St. John vs DePaul Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s defense locked in for long stretches and the ball whipped around on offense leading to a blowout of DePaul, 92-73.

The Red Storm entered the Big East Tournament as the 7-seed to take on the 10-seed Blue Demons, despite the expectations for the Johnnies being to, at the very least, not play on the first night of the tournament. However, as Coach Mike Anderson said yesterday, “It’s a new season. Everyone is 0-0.” Despite the new season, however, the game started with St. John’s looking like the same old team.

The first ten minutes of the game created a feeling of here we go again. DePaul got out to an early 12-2 in less than four minutes. DePaul’s Javon Freeman-Liberty scored half of those points and appeared poised to put away the Johnnies early. Despite Freeman-Liberty’s strong early start, he was held to only 3 points for the remainder of the half.

The ball was moving against the Blue Demons in a way St. John’s have not seen for most of this season. The team finished 12 of the 18 made field goals for the Johnnies was assisted. The biggest beneficiary of the ball movement was Julian Champagnie.

Champagnie, after an erratic season in terms of his performance, reminded everyone exactly who he is when it truly matters. The junior put up 22 points in the half on an easy 8 of 12 from the floor and 3 of 6 from deep to not only help the Red Storm battle back but completely turn the tables on the Blue Demons. Over the nearly final 17 minutes of the half, Champagnie singlehandedly outscored DePaul 22-17.

St. John’s held DePaul scoreless for three minutes through the midpoint of the half, and that is when the team took control of the game. Soon thereafter, Champagnie scored the Red Storm’s next 12 points, and the Blue Demon’s Philmon Gebrewhit with a three of his own with nearly three-and-a-half minutes to go in the half.

That was the last time the St. John’s defense allowed DePaul to score in the half. The Johnnies added 11 more points thereafter scored by five different players, and the Red Storm went into the half with a 49-29 lead over DePaul.

In the second half, the heavy ball-movement approach continued, but St. John’s appeared to revert back into their unstructured offense, possibly looking ahead to Villanova. The vanilla offense was enough to keep the Blue Demons at bay, but not enough to extend the Red Storm’s already large lead.

Esahia Nyiwe appears to be coming into his own offensively at just the right time for the Red Storm. Largely liked by Coach Mike Anderson for his defensive IQ, length, and ability to switch onto smaller guards, Nyiwe’s smooth jumper is translating into catch and shoot opportunities. The big man has been in double digits in scoring over the past two games and scored 10 (5/8 FG, 0/1 3PT) tonight even going nearly coast to coast on one possession.

St. John’s continued pressure appeared to deflate DePaul, and the Red Storm maintained their halftime lead to win big, 92-73.

The Johnnies take on Villanova tomorrow in the quarterfinals at 7:00 PM.

St. John’s Red Storm

Julian Champagnie: 26 points (10/20 FG, 3/7 3PT), 7 rebounds, 1 assist

Stef Smith: 13 points (5/9 FG, 1/4 3PT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists

Esahia Nyiwe: 10 points (5/7 FG, 0/1 3PT), 9 rebounds, 1 assist

DePaul Blue Demons

Javon Freeman-Liberty: 17 points (6/13 FG, 0/4 3PT), 6 rebounds, 5 assists

Nick Ongenda: 13 points (5/8 FG), 8 rebounds