St. John’s may finally be picking up the beat.
The Red Storm continued an undeniable upward trend on Sunday afternoon, riding a solid defensive effort and point guard Posh Alexander’s best game of the season to an 88-69 Big East victory over Georgetown before 5,161 at the Garden. It was a strong rebound from Wednesday’s overtime loss at UConn.
"Every game we play we got better. We got better today," said Alexander, who had 17 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the floor and 9-for-10 shooting from the line. He also had seven assists, six steals and six rebounds.
"We were more focused on defense," he said. "We wanted to play our game and bring practice to the game, which was focusing on defense . . . I see us as becoming a better all-around team. But we have to take it day-by-day, work hard in practice and bring it to the game."
Alexander left after tweaking his groin with 3:30 left but later said he was feeling "fine."
While it’s true that the Red Storm (10-5, 2-2) has neither a signature high-profile victory nor a particularly impressive strength of schedule, they’ll arrive at Wednesday’s game at Creighton — the midpoint of the season — in a pretty good spot. They are in a four-way tie for fifth place in a very strong conference.
Julian Champagnie scored 25 points, Dylan Addae-Wusu had 17 points and seven assists, Montez Mathis added 11 points and Aaron Wheeler had 10 off the bench for St. John’s. The Red Storm’s pressure defense taxed the struggling Hoyas (6-8, 0-3) and generated 21 turnovers that were converted into 29 points.
"Our team defense was the biggest difference in this game," Red Storm coach Mike Anderson said. "We deflected a lot of passes."
"To beat St. John’s, you have to successfully attack their pressure, and we didn’t do that," said acting coach Louis Orr, standing in for Patrick Ewing, who is in health protocol. "St. John’s is just a different kind of team. By the time you get the ball up through their pressure, you only have 18 or 19 seconds to try to put something together."
Orr said Ewing will return for the Hoyas’ Thursday game at Providence.
One noticeable difference in the Red Storm was the play of the backcourt duo of Addae-Wusu and Alexander. For much of the season, Alexander played off the ball and left much of the ballhandling to Addae-Wusu. Against Georgetown, Alexander had the ball more and Addae-Wusu was able to get open to make four of his five three-point attempts.
Asked about that, Anderson said he allowed the two to find their own method to distribute responsibilities. There was no arguing about efficacy when both scored and distributed.
Champagnie had five points in an 11-0 run for a 26-15 lead that the Red Storm would not relinquish. Alexander had a jumper and a pair of assists in a 9-0 burst for a 63-43 lead with 13:02 to play.
After the Hoyas charged back with those two on the bench to get within 68-61, Alexander finished them off with six points, two assists and a steal in 5:08 of the final 8:38 before exiting.
"I feel like it was one of my best games but, like I do every day, I just come out and play hard. I do whatever [I have to] for my team to win," Alexander said. "If I have to rebound, pass the ball, I do whatever for us to just win."
"The numbers are staggering," Anderson said. "He’s like the energizer bunny — everybody feeds off of him. It was like he was everywhere deflecting balls. I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence and doing a lot to help our team."
"This kid? He’s very talented and we’re blessed to have him."