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Mustapha Heron scores 18, LJ Figueroa gets just six as St. John's tops Wagner

Mustapha Heron #0 of the St. John's Red

Mustapha Heron #0 of the St. John's Red Storm defendeds Chase Freeman #12 of the Wagner Seahawks during a men's basketball game at Carnesecca Arena in Queens on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.  Credit: Steven Ryan

Mustapha Heron scored 18 points but played only 16 minutes and change after the foul calls came too frequently for the second straight game. LJ Figueroa rebounded and distributed, but none of his shots descended through the net until 5:28 remained in the game. 

St. John’s will need more minutes from Heron and more shots to fall from Figueroa when the Big East schedule tips off. But they also will need contributions from sources beyond their top two scorers, the type they received against Wagner in Saturday’s 86-63 win at Carnesecca Arena.

“Coming in, we knew that [Heron and Figueroa] were going to be the face of the team, but they’re not going to be ‘the’ team,” coach Mike Anderson said after the Red Storm moved to 6-2. “I think that’s what we’re seeing now.”

Redshirt junior combo guard Rasheem Dunn scored 14. Then there was Josh Roberts, who has gone from stuck-on-the-bench freshman to impact sophomore. The 6-9 forward contributed 12 points and nine rebounds. 

Julian Champagnie, a 6-8 freshman guard/forward, scored 12 and made four steals. Marcellus Earlington, a 6-6 sophomore forward, added nine points. 

Figueroa was averaging 15.3 points. The 6-7 junior guard/forward shot 2-for-9 and finished with six points, six rebounds and six assists.

Heron, who entered averaging 14.3 points, shot 7-for-11, including 3-for-6 on threes, before fouling out. The 6-5 senior guard had shot 3-for-13 overall and averaged 5.5 points over two games last weekend, a loss to Arizona State and a win over UMass.

“I might have been pressing a little bit at the time,” Heron said. “But I watched the film, watched where I could get lost in the defense. I think … it’s important that I perform every night or the team is not going to be as successful as we should be.”

The St. John’s defense held the 2-5 Seahawks to 33.9 percent shooting, including 26.1 in the first half. They got 12 points from both Elijah Ford and Nigel Jackson. Top scorer Curtis Cobb III, who’s averaging 21.6, was out with a hand injury.

The Red Storm smashed the game apart with a 13-0 run that put them up by 20. 

Roberts got it started with a layup. Figueroa fed Heron for another. Nick Rutherford buried a three. Roberts scored off an offensive rebound. Dunn drove for two. And Champagnie converted inside to make it 34-14.

The lead was 43-19 at the break. The spread quickly swelled to 28. Wagner chipped it down to 19 but no lower.

“I thought their defense for 40 minutes was smothering, suffocating,” Seahawks coach Bashir Mason said. “… They just play hard enough [and] they just play tough enough that I think even if a team’s more talented than them, they’re always going to give themselves a chance to be in the game and have a chance to win because of their defense.”

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