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Julian Champagnie scores 22 as St. John's cruises past Saint Peter's

St. John's guard Julian Champagnie (2) takes a

St. John's guard Julian Champagnie (2) takes a three point shot against St. Peter's forward Fousseyni Drame (10) during the second half at Carnesecca Arena on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.  Credit: Noah K. Murray

Only two games into the season, one can tell that this edition of St. John’s is far superior to the one that shocked so many in the Big East in 2020-21 by going from a preseason ninth-place pick to a fourth-place finish.

The Red Storm can go 10 to 11 players deep now. They make a lot more shots. They have the size on the interior to score in close and defend the rim. They are veteran players who don’t allow their intensity to slip the way younger ones do.

All that was on display on Saturday as St. John’s blew past a Saint Peter’s team that is expected to make real noise in the Metro Atlantic, gliding to a 91-70 non-conference win before 3,795 at Carnesecca Arena. Last November, the Peacocks gave the Red Storm all they could handle before losing to St. John’s, 76-75.

"They’ve upgraded tremendously," Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway said. "They brought in tremendous transfers and they’re older. You got guys who were leading [players] on other teams . . . and [Storm coach Mike Anderson] got players where when you go to the bench, you’re not losing anything. When you’ve got that, it’s the sign of a great team."

Julian Champagnie scored 22 points, including five three-pointers. Hofstra transfer Tareq Coburn scored 17 points, including the 1,000th of his career, and Posh Alexander had 12 points and nine assists for St. John’s (2-0). Aaron Wheeler, a 6-9 Purdue transfer, had 11 points and seven rebounds and Joel Soriano, a 6-11 Fordham transfer, had eight points and four blocks for the Red Storm.

"I was really encouraged by what I saw in the game," Anderson said. "Collectively as a team, they’re trying to do all the things we do in practice every day . . . [Then] when you get into a game and see these things coming about and you start having success, you’re confident."

Jaylen Murray and Clarence Rupert each scored 11 for the Peacocks (0-2).

On Wednesday, St. John’s will have a new measuring stick when it faces Indiana at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.

"I think we’re ready. We’re super-ready," Champagnie said.

Alexander and Champagnie set the tone early by making three-pointers on the first two Red Storm possessions. Soon Soriano scored on a pair of dunks off feeds from Alexander. Then Wheeler and returner Dylan Addae-Wusu each made a three. Coburn came off the bench to score eight straight points, including a pair of treys. St. John’s led 27-9 just nine minutes in.

The Red Storm shot 51% from the floor and 45% from outside the arc, sinking 13 three-pointers.

"[Soriano] got his body unbelievable, he’s in shape," Holloway said. "Champagnie is obviously really good. Posh is really good. But I am impressed with their bench. [Coburn] is tremendous. Wheeler is really good. [Vermont transfer Seth] Smith is really good. They’ve got players . . . that fit what St. John’s is trying to do."

Folding in nine new faces to three key returning players is a daunting task, but it has looked good. Said Champagnie: "It shows we’re all getting along together and becoming a real team."

Anderson said Champagnie, Alexander and Addae-Wusu are the reason the group has come along as fast as it has.

"Whether it’s Dylan, Julian or Posh?" he said. "These guys are the ones that set the lead."

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