St. John’s unveiled a trio of promising new talents as the college basketball season opened on Wednesday night. It turned out the Red Storm needed all those three could give them.
True freshman Posh Alexander and junior college All-Americans Vince Cole and Isaih Moore played their first game for St. John’s and they were the ones who made the plays that helped overcome a four-point deficit in the final minute and eke out a pulse-racing 76-75 Lapchick Tournament victory over Saint Peter’s at Carnesecca Arena.
Trailing 75-73 after a Cole scoop shot from the baseline with 17.6 seconds to play, Alexander ran down a long pass by the Peacocks and made the steal. Then Greg Williams Jr. found Cole on the wing for an open three-pointer with 8.5 seconds for the lead. Matthew Lee got off a short contested shot and Moore grabbed the rebound before the buzzer to seal the victory.
"All the credit to [Alexander] because without that steal it wouldn’t have happened," said Cole, who scored the Storm’s final five points. "Really we’d looked defeated. The game didn’t really go our way the whole [time]. We had to pick it up and [Williams] made a great pass."
Cole had 21 points including 5-for-6 shooting on three-pointers, Alexander had 16 points, seven rebounds and five steals and Moore had 12 points and nine rebounds for St. John’s, which faces LaSalle on Thanksgiving at 2 p.m. to close the tournament.
KC Ndefo had 16 points and Daryl Banks III had 13 points for the Peacocks, who just missed out on beating St. John’s for the first time in 19 meetings dating back to 1910.
Storm coach Mike Anderson was asked if having three newcomers star in the win was a good omen for the team and replied "we’re going to need all of these guys" and that it is "searching for an identity," but he did a see one silver lining.
"The thing I like about it: we had some adversity right in the first game," he added. "You're down four and 17 seconds and now our guys found a way. They found the right guy and he made the play."
St. John’s led by six at the halftime and eight in the early going of the second half, but squandered it all as it shot an abysmal 3-for-18 over the first eight minutes of the second half and committed eight of its 17 turnovers after the break.
It trailed for almost all of the final eight minutes – leading briefly 68-66 with 4:09 to go after a game-tying three-pointer by Cole and a pair of Moore free throws on consecutive possessions – and Cole’s scoop shot was the Storm’s first made shot after a 4:34 drought.
"You let a team hang around and all of a sudden it’s a game," Anderson said. "They start believing."
The defense-first Storm looked a little slow as the Peacocks shot 51 percent from the floor and 42 percent on three-pointers. But it still ended up a night for celebrating because St. John’s has added some players unafraid to step up.
"Definitely, [I] wasn’t nervous," Cole said. "I’ve been playing basketball my whole life."
Honoring John Thompson: Both Storm coach Mike Anderson and Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway had white towels draped over their shoulders during the game as part of a tribute to Georgetown Hall of Fame coach John Thompson Jr, who passed away Aug. 30.