Greg Williams Jr. #4 of St. John's University, left, drives...

Greg Williams Jr. #4 of St. John's University, left, drives to the net to draw a shooting foul during an NCAA men's basketball game against Georgetown at Carnesecca Arena in Jamaica, NY on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. Credit: James Escher

Not this time.

Just one week after surrendering leads late in regulation and during overtime and losing at Georgetown, St. John’s didn’t let the upper hand slip away in the rematch Sunday night at Carnesecca Arena. Greg Williams Jr. had a career-high 26 points as the Red Storm notched their first Big East win of the season, 94-83.

St. John’s (6-4, 1-3) snapped a three-game losing streak in its final scheduled game in 2020. The Red Storm will host DePaul on Jan. 2.

St. John’s had a rare strong start and built a 16-point lead during the first half but saw it whittled to 51-49 with 15:33 left on Jahvon Blair’s runner in the lane. Williams immediately answered with a three-pointer to spark a 25-8 burst that put things out of reach.

Posh Alexander and Isaih Moore each had six points in the run, with Alexander hitting Moore in transition for a highlight reel-caliber alley-oop dunk.

"We responded to adversity — that’s a step in the right direction," Williams said.

There were a lot of things missing that finally showed up in the win. Coach Mike Anderson had harped on effort and intensity, playing together and improving the defense. One could see the enhanced effort in Alexander’s ferocity on both ends, the cohesiveness (making extra passes led to 19 assists on 30 baskets) and the improved defense. St. John’s held the Hoyas (3-4, 1-2) to 44% shooting after they shot 54% last weekend.

"I thought we grew up today," Anderson said. "Seven days ago at their place, we were fine with [2:37] left and we were just all over the yard and were fortunate to get to overtime . . . [Tonight] we stayed together."

"We know what our potential is," Williams said. "When we play right, great things happen."

Williams added that the Red Storm played with "more trust" in each other, something Anderson thought might have been a byproduct of a team meeting after the Creighton loss last Thursday.

Certainly it showed up in the passing. Anderson said "sharing the basketball and that translated to the defensive end — we played much better defense . . . and stayed connected."

Another breakthrough came from outside the arc. The Red Storm made 13 of 29 attempts, including four each by Julian Champagnie and Williams and three by Vince Cole.

Champagnie finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Cole had 17 points, Moore 12 and Alexander 10 for St. John’s. Blair led Georgetown with 25 points.

Slow starts have been an issue, and Anderson moved Cole, who was third on the team in scoring with an 11.1-point average, along with George Washington transfer Arnaldo Toro into the starting lineup. Cole had been starting before scoring seven points and shooting 1-for-7 against Georgetown in last weekend’s loss. It was Toro’s first start.

It produced the desired result. Cole had seven of his points in the first five minutes, and along with eight from Champagnie, the Red Storm roared out to a 20-12 lead en route to a 49-41 halftime advantage. Their largest lead of the half was 39-23 on Champagnie’s three-pointer with 5:07 left.


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