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St. John's blows most of big lead but holds off Boston College to begin season 3-0

St. John's Julian Champagnie, right, shoots over Boston

St. John's Julian Champagnie, right, shoots over Boston College's CJ Felder in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Uncasville, Conn.  Credit: AP/Jessica Hill

St. John’s coach Mike Anderson has said in this first week of the season that his team is "searching for an identity." Its performance on Monday shows it’s still looking.

The Red Storm turned in a real Jekyll and Hyde performance against Boston College and ultimately eked out a 97-93 win in Bubbleville at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

They looked stunning as they raced past the Eagles to erase an early 10-point deficit and build a 12-point halftime lead. It continued in the first seven minutes of the second half as the Red Storm upped the margin to 75-55. Then it almost came apart as St. John’s allowed BC to creep within a point in the final minute.

Greg Williams Jr. ultimately helped the Red Storm close it out by shooting 4-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 53 seconds.

"Once we got off our heels, we really got in attack mode," Anderson said. "Then I think we got passive. We started playing not to lose. One thing you’ve got to do is put that pedal to the metal and keep doing what you did to get the lead."

Julian Champagnie, making his first appearance of the season after missing the first two games with a right ankle sprain, came off the bench to score a career-high 29 points with 10 rebounds. Freshman Posh Alexander had 18 points and five assists for St. John’s (3-0). Williams added 17 points and six assists and Dylan Addae-Wusu had nine points and six assists.

St. John’s may not have established an identity, but it certainly has showcased a new level of depth this season. Eight players have reached double-digits in scoring in the first three games.

"The most satisfying thing was to be back out there with my teammates and help bring home a ‘W,’ " Champagnie said.

With things getting uncomfortably close late, St. John’s missed senior leader Rasheem Dunn. He missed the trip while going through concussion protocols after striking his head on the floor in Wednesday’s opener. Williams took the closer role and got to the line three times in the last minute.

"We don’t have [Dunn], so it was incumbent on Greg to be more assertive," Anderson said. "We saw him be assertive in a lot of ways . . . just making the plays. He’s grown as a player.’’

Wynston Tabbs had 23 points for Boston College (1-2), but his potential tying three-pointer with five seconds left was blocked by Champagnie.

After St. John’s fell behind 19-9 early, Alexander had a three-pointer to start a 13-0 run. Alexander had 16 first-half points, shooting 6-for-6, and Champagnie had 14 points and shot 5-for-11.

BC got within 94-93 with 30.3 seconds left, but Williams made two free throws before Champagnie’s block.

"We had two or three charges where we just ran over guys — I don’t know if it was because our guys got tired," Anderson said. "We’ve got to learn how to finish."

St. John's-Texas Tech canceled. St. John’s will not play 17th-ranked Texas Tech on Thursday in Lubbock, Texas, as scheduled because of COVID-19 risks, the school announced. The Red Storm added a game against BYU at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Mohegan Sun that will air on ESPN2.

The rate of coronavirus infections has spiked in Texas, and Lubbock County is particularly affected. St. John’s officials decided Monday that travel to the region is too risky right now. The two schools agreed to cancel the game, which was to be part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

St. John’s game on Sunday against Sacred Heart and Dec. 8 game against Fordham have been canceled because those programs are in a coronavirus-related pause. The Red Storm is in the process of lining up games to replace them.

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