St. John’s followed an 11-2 start to the season with a miserable slog through Big East play. The shooting was dismal. Late leads were blown. Five games were lost by five or fewer points.
But as March dawned Sunday, the Red Storm turned the page on all that with their best performance of the season. They found their shooting stroke and rode great perimeter scoring — headlined by sophomore Greg Williams Jr. — to a stunning 91-71 upset of No. 10 Creighton before 4,260 at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s (15-14, 4-12 Big East) hit a season-high 14 three-pointers, led by Williams (7-for-10).
“Greg Williams was phenomenal today. He was just in a zone,” coach Mike Anderson said. “His confidence is at an all-time high . . . What do you do when a guy is in a zone? You find him. He delivered. We needed that big-time.”
“I felt like when we go out and play for each other, play together, things like that can happen,” said Williams, whose 21 points surpassed his career high by 10. “The losses we took hurt so bad. We work hard every day, and for those to slip away sometimes, it hurts. To come out with this one, it was really encouraging [to know] we are capable of doing that.”
St. John’s last beat a top 10 opponent on campus a little more than 44 years ago, a 79-70 win over No. 7 Tennessee and Bernard King on Dec. 9, 1975, in what then was called Alumni Hall.
St. John’s was 14-for-22 (63.6%) on three-pointers, a high-water mark for what had been the Big East’s worst-shooting squad. It was the most points allowed by Creighton (22-7, 11-5) this season.
“St. John’s was terrific. They shot the ball at an incredibly high level,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I thought for the most part we handled their pressure: only seven turnovers . . . Usually that’s a recipe for success. But not when you get outscored by 30 on the three-point line.”
St. John’s also defended the three-pointer well. Creighton was shooting 39% from three-point range — ninth in Division I — but went 4-for-27 (14.8%).
“They’ve got guys coming from 30 feet [out], so we were guarding at least 35 feet out,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to make them uncomfortable.”
Added Williams: “We were just causing chaos, and that’s what we do.”
The Red Storm, who led by as many as 12 in the first half, fell behind 56-54 with 12:51 left before Nick Rutherford, Williams and LJ Figueroa made three-pointers on three straight possessions, igniting a 30-8 run that produced an 84-64 lead with 4:58 left. Williams had two treys and Figueroa and Julian Champagnie had one each to cap a 14-0 streak that broke open a 70-64 game.
Rasheem Dunn had 19 points and 10 assists, Figueroa added 16 points, 12 rebounds and five assists and Champagnie had 13 points for St. John’s.
Damien Jefferson scored 20 and Ty-Shon Alexander 19 for Creighton.
“It’s good to see us put 40 minutes together. . . We have two more games on our schedule and I hope this is a sign things are coming together,” Anderson said. “This is the time you want things to come together.”
The Red Storm’s final on-campus game also produced a feel-good moment when walk-on Justin Cole sank a jumper for his first points of the season.
“It’s one of the best team games we played in the Big East this season. I feel like everybody contributed on the offensive and defensive side — all the guys were into it,” Williams said. “We came out with the win and we’re going to try to keep it rolling.”