St. John’s sidestepped a small disaster on Tuesday night.
The Red Storm was without starting point guard Posh Alexander, out with what school officials termed a "lower leg strain," yet still played the first 30 minutes like wearing "St. John’s" across their chests entitled them to a win against St. Francis Brooklyn. After trailing for almost all of it. The Storm’s fight-or-flight response finally kicked in with Julian Champagnie taking the lead.
The junior forward carried St. John’s through a 21-6 closing run with 13 of his 23 points as the Storm’s finishing kick carried it to a 76-70 non-conference victory over the winless Terriers before 3,415 at Carnesecca Arena.
Ballhandling was going to be an issue without Alexander and Rafael Pinzon, the freshman point guard out of LuHi who missed a second straight game with an injured left ring finger. But the Storm’s defense along the perimeter was very poor in the first half and its shoddy rebounding allowed St. Francis to pile up points on offensive rebounds.
St. Francis raced to a 19-6 lead early and carried it all the way to a 40-38 halftime lead. At that point a team averaging 6.7 threes per game had 11 and 15 points as a result of offensive rebounds.
Then it went inside to get to the free-throw line and build the margin back to 10 points and was still up by 64-55 with 10 minutes left.
"We didn’t play defense like we’re capable," Storm coach Mike Anderson said. "We didn’t play with the grit we’ve got to play with. We didn’t play with the toughness we need. I’m happy with a win, but we’ve got work to do."
"Making sure we have a better first half is going to be a point of emphasis — that we come in with energy and rebound and defend," Champagnie said. "Even though there’s 40 minutes in a game, against better teams its’s going to be tougher."
Dylan Addae-Wusu started and was the primary ballhandler for the Storm (4-1). In his first 12 minutes on the floor, St. Francis outscored St. John’s by 17 points. But he was as good in the last 10 minutes as he was bad at the beginning with three steals, three assists and three defensive rebounds.
Champagnie scored on a turnaround jumper to start the comeback. He dunked off an outlet from Addae-Wusu with 7:27 left to pull St. John’s within one and converted an Addae-Wusu steal into a layup for the final lead change of the game. Another Addae-Wusu steal led to Champagnie making two free throws with 3:58 left for a 73-66 lead.
Champagnie also had six rebounds and five assists, Montez Mathis had 20 points and played excellent defense down the stretch and Addae-Wusu had 10 points, seven rounds, four assists and four steals. Tedrick Wilcox Jr. and Larry Moreno had 19 points and 15 points, respectively, and combined to make nine three-pointers for the Terriers.
St. John’s has a weekend game against NJIT before facing Kansas next week.
Alexander was asked about coming back for the next game and replied "I’m taking it day-by-day, but it’s not too serious — I’m going to be good."