The snowstorm may have blanketed New York City on Thursday morning but it was St. John’s that got buried Thursday night.
No. 9 Creighton beat the snow to city for the Big East matchup with the Red Storm and then completely overwhelmed them in the second half to run away for a 94-76 victory at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s (5-4, 0-3) showed some fight after falling behind by 16 in the first half and crept within two points with 14:25 left. That’s where the Bluejays found their finishing kick, scoring on seven straight possessions for a 14-2 run to leave the Storm in the dust.
"We finally got into the grittiness of the defense," Storm coach Mike Anderson said. "We got to that point where you’ve got to get over the hump, but we didn’t get over. We got knocked down pretty good, fought back, but got knocked down again."
The numbers summarize the gap between St. John’s and Creighton right now. The Bluejays, who brought the conference’s top offense in against the club giving up the highest shooting percentage, made 57% from the field and were 13-for-23 shooting from the three-point line while St. John’s made just 45% overall. Creighton (5-2, 1-1) outrebounded the Storm 44-26.
"That’s toughness,’ St. John’s Rasheem Dunn said. "We play for little bits but we don’t play for 40 minutes. That comes with bringing in new people . . . We’re still trying to get to know each other."
Anderson said he wants to "bring out the blue collar" from his players on defense and is still searching for the right combinations to play in certain situations.
Bluejays 7-foot freshman center Ryan Kalkbrenner had eight of his 15 points in that 14-2 run that made it 66-52, all on layups and putbacks that were virtually undefended. The run took the fight out of St. John’s, which fell back 74-54 on Denzel Mahoney's three-pointer with 6:41 left. Creighton’s biggest lead was 89-66.
"They took control," Anderson said.
Julian Champagnie had 17 points, including five of St. John’s 10 three-pointers, Posh Alexander had 13 points and Dylan Addae-Wusu had 12 points for St. John’s.
Marcus Zegarowski, the Big East Preseason Player of the Year as picked by conference coaches, had 20 points and five assists, Mahoney had 16 points, Christian Bishop had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Damien Jefferson had 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for Creighton.
St. John’s was so poor on both ends of the court in the early going, it looked like it might fall too far back to even be in the game during the second half.
The Bluejays scored on all of their first five possessions for an 11-2 lead after less than three minutes and when Mitch Ballock sank a three-pointer from the right wing with 14:32 in the half, it was 20-10 and eight baskets on nine Creighton possessions. A Mahoney three with 11:38 in the half had the Bluejays up 28-12.
St. John’s showed its penchant from fighting back from a bad start in final 10 minutes of the first half. The Storm defense tightened up and the offense picked up the beat. Champagnie and Addae-Wusu each had five points and Dunn had four as they put together a 18-5 burst and cut the Creighton lead to 33-30 on Dunn’s 15-foot jumper with 3:22 to the break, but it trailed 41-34 at halftime.