Queens, NY – The St. John’s Red Storm hosted St. Francis of Brooklyn Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena. Falling behind as much as 13 early in the first half (19-6), the Red Storm managed to bring it back within two at halftime (40-38). Down by nine points (64-55) with 10 minutes left in the game, St. John’s increased their intensity and went on a 21-6 run to close out St. Francis 76-70 and claim the victory.
Scoring 15 of his 23 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the second half and leading his team in scoring, 2021 All-Big East First team and Most Improved Player Julian Champagnie, helped fuel his team’s comeback victory. He ended up shooting 10-of-20 and added six rebounds, five assists, four steals and four blocks. Senior guard Montez Mathis added 20 points and shot an impressive 8-of-10 from the field, but struggled at the line shooting only 50 percent (4-of-8). Sophomore guard Dylan Addae-Wusu had a solid all-around game off the bench with 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block in 34 minutes of action. He did struggle to take care of the ball with five turnovers. St. John’s was without their 2021 Big East Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year Posh Alexander as he was sidelined with a leg injury.
Vermont transfer and 6’2 guard Stef Smith scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 2-of-3 from deep. He was very efficient from the floor tonight, dishing out six assists to one turnover, playing 31 minutes. On the defensive end, he was a big contributor in applying pressure to opposing guards Michael Cubbage and Larry Moreno, forcing them to shoot 29.6 percent (8-of-27) and 4-of-12 from deep on the night. Purdue transfer, 6’9 forward Aaron Wheeler made the most of his 11 minutes, scoring six points on 3-of-3 from the field, snatching two rebounds and protecting the paint with two blocks.
St John’s, looking to improve to 68-12 over St Francis Brooklyn all time with nine straight wins in the rivalry, came out slow and disorganized being down 16-4 in the first 5.5 minutes. St. Tedrick Wilcox Jr. (St. Francis) was a major early contributor scoring 15 points on 5-of-7 from deep. . The second half started out as a game of runs, with St. Francis coming out the gate strong with an 8-0 run. Then St John’s had a 11-0 run, with a dunk by Mathis giving them their first lead (49-48) since leading 4-2 early in the first. St. Francis would go on to make one more run in this game going up 64-55 with 10 minutes left in the game before the Red Storm late comeback. Champagnie kicked off the final run for his team by draining a mid-range jumper in the middle of the lane, then the next possession skying for an offensive rebound and putting it in. After a St. Francis missed a 3-pointer, Tareq Corburn grabbed the defensive rebound and shot an outlet pass to a wide open Champagnie for the dunk which put his team up 65-64. It was the final lead change of the night. With some life in the crowd and in the team, St John’s turned up their defensive intensity and applied a full court press which really rattled St. Francis. St. John’s forced nine turnovers in the last six minutes of the game, getting out to easy transition buckets and seizing full control of the momentum in the game.
The Red Storm shot 56.9 percent (33-of-58) from the field including 21.4 percent from the three-point line (3-of-14). However, they were only 7-of-14 from the free throw line, something they will want to clean up. St. John’s struggled to score in the half court, and to hit perimeter shots all game, particularly the 3. They had a lot of good looks, just weren’t getting them to fall. It was the defense that helped set up the offense all game. St John’s forced 21 turnovers on the night, for 23 points, and 24 fastbreak points. They also had a staggering 56 points in the paint to St. Francis’s 22. St John’s got outrebounded 40-26. Even with some key stats not falling their way, The Red Storm did hold the Terriers to only 40 percent (24-of-60) shooting. St. John’s did a decent job at taking care of the ball, only committing 12 turnovers with 19 assists.
St. John’s (4-1) will look to defend home court again Saturday afternoon, when they host NJIT (1-2). St. Francis (0-4) will travel to Florida on Friday, in search of their first win against the McNeese State (2-3).