This one was simply incredible.
St. John’s capped its regular season with an absolutely astonishing feat on Saturday night against Seton Hall. The Red Storm allowed the Pirates to score the first 18 points, then clawed back into the game and blew past them for an 81-71 Big East win at Carnesecca Arena.
And it all happened with freshman phenom Posh Alexander out again with a sprained right thumb.
"We made a great comeback and . . . everybody fought hard," Greg Williams Jr. said. "We were getting smacked, we had to get it together and so we kind of got the jitters out — I’ll say that — and come back with a different type of intensity."
"This time of year, it’s a one-game season . . . and they played like it," coach Mike Anderson said.
The victory gave St. John’s (16-10, 10-9), picked to finish ninth of 11 in a preseason poll of Big East coaches, a fourth-place finish and a bye into the conference tournament quarterfinals. It is the first time since 2014-15 that St. John’s has finished above .500 in conference play and earned a bye out of the first round. St. John’s will meet Seton Hall on Thursday at the Garden.
The Pirates (13-12, 10-9), once considered on course for the NCAA Tournament, have lost four in a row.
Julian Champagnie shook off a bad first half and scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half to head up a truly ensemble effort for St. John’s. Dylan Addae-Wusu had a season-high 14 points, Marcellus Earlington scored 12 points on four three-pointers and Williams had 11 points and five assists for the Red Storm, who also got key minutes from John McGreiff, Vince Cole and Josh Roberts.
Sandro Mamukelashvili had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Pirates.
Big East coaches now will vote on the conference’s three big awards, and an argument can be made for Champagnie for Player of the Year, Alexander for Freshman of the Year and Anderson for Coach of the Year.
The 18-0 deficit was ugly, with the Red Storm going 0-for-10 from the floor with three turnovers in their first three possessions. But St. John’s late kick was something to behold. Down 40-30 early in the second half, the Red Storm went on a 26-6 run, led by 11 points from Champagnie and five from Addae-Wusu, whose two free throws with 11:28 to play put St. John’s up 56-46 and left Seton Hall staggered.
When Cole hit a jumper with 6:04 to play, St. John’s was shooting 14-for-18 in the half.
Asked about a turning point in the comeback, Williams couldn’t name a play but said: "It was just a matter of just being aggressive, being physical and realizing that the only way we could go is forward. We just had to push through that little slump that we had and play how we’re capable of playing."
The Red Storm’s depth also took a toll on the Pirates, with Addae-Wusu and Earlington helping their bench outscore Seton Hall’s 33-16.
"They play for each other. They play unselfish on offense and defense," Anderson said. "And they play when called upon . . . [and] trust each other."
With this feat in the books, Williams was asked about what St. John’s can do in the days ahead. "[Our potential] is great,’’ he said. "We played a great game today. We have to lock in even more at this point and just try to continue this journey."