The Red Storm (12-5, 1-3 Big East) brushed by the DePaul Blue Demons (12-4, 0-3) for a 74-67 win on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, their second game (and win) inside of the World’s Most Famous Arena this season.
One of the key elements of St. John’s early-season success has been their focus on taking care of the basketball, and against DePaul they only turned the ball over on eight occasions.
“We value the basketball and I thought we took care of it,” said coach Mike Anderson. “Of course we want to disrupt other teams, but we want to share the basketball. I thought you saw a team that was sharing.
“I’m really happy for our guys,” added Anderson of his first Big East victory as head coach. “It’s good to see them finally get over the hump in a game in Big East play. I thought we shared the basketball. We had 23 assists on 25 field goal attempts, that’s pretty efficient.”
Anderson also noted the team’s struggles late in games. The Red Storm squandered a late opportunity to upset the tenth-ranked Butler Bulldogs on New Year’s Eve, losing 60-58 just one-game following the Red Storm’s 70-67 upset over the sixteenth-ranked Arizona Wildcats.
St. John’s led by as many as 12 points with just over seven minutes left in the second half before allowing DePaul to come within four points with under a minute to go before St. John’s held serve.
“The one thing we have to learn is how to finish off the game,” said Anderson. “Julian Champagnie, right there at the end you saw him make some big plays for us, whether it be a rebound, whether it be a stick back, whether it be getting to the basket as DePaul continued to amount their attack.”
The freshman Champagnie came off the bench for the first time this season and ccontributed an efficient 11-point, four-rebound and three-assist effort, despite only playing 16 minutes, shooting a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor.
Rasheem Dunn got the first start of his tenure with St. John’s, and netted a season-high 19 points just days after scoring a season-best 18 points in a blowout loss to Georgetown, the most points the redshirt junior has scored in college since his days as a St. Francis Terrier.
The Brooklyn native shot 7-of-13 from the floor, and also recorded eight rebounds, five assists and two steals in 32 minutes.
Dunn says it doesn’t matter whether he starts or comes off the bench.
“Honestly, it’s no different for me,” he said. “Today, I started and I made that impact right away. Every day I just keep reminding myself that I’m in this building and on this team for a reason. I got to continue to work hard and continue to push myself and push my teammates.”
Senior Mustapha Heron added 15 points and four assists, while hitting 3-of-6 from three and 4-of-4 from the foul line.
Heron is only shooting 40 percent from the field this season, down from 44 percent in 2018-19, and spoke of overcoming his recent struggles.
“I think it’s a mental thing, just making sure that I’m locked and loaded every time that I’m ready to shoot,” he said. “Making sure that I’m reminding myself that the ball is coming to me, let’s be ready before it gets to me.”
St. John’s will resume league play in Rhode Island against Providence this Wednesday at the Dunkin Donuts Center. They return to MSG against Seton Hall on Saturday at noon.