Red Storm claims its first ranked win of the season
Trailing by as many as 14 early in the first half and eight in the second half, the St. John's men's basketball team willed its way to a 74-70 victory over No. 23/RV Connecticut in the first meeting between the programs since 2013.
The triumph marked the first road win and first ranked win of the season for St. John's (8-7, 3-6 BIG EAST). Mike Anderson now owns three wins over Associated Press Top 25 teams during his tenure in Queens.
The Red Storm has now won four of its last five games against UConn, who it met on Monday for the first time since 2013. The win snapped an eight-game skid against the Huskies on the road that dated back to 2001.
"We needed a win, period," said Anderson. "I thought that we just needed to play a complete 40 minutes.
"We have a team that is not dependent on one or two guys playing well to win, so now some other guys had an opportunity to go out and perform and they did."
The Red Storm trailed 57-49 with 8:50 to go before Posh Alexander tallied five points and an assist on a 10-2 run to tie the game at 59. The Johnnies took their first lead on a Marcellus Earlington triple with 4:18 to go and never trailed again.
Alexander led five St. John's scorers in double figures, matching a season high with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Entering the game just 5-of-22 from three-point range on the season, Alexander cashed three of his five attempts from downtown. In addition to his scoring, Alexander also led the Red Storm with six assists and three steals while registering four rebounds and a block.
Earlington proved similarly automatic from deep, finishing with 15 points and going a perfect 3-for-3 from distance. The junior also grabbed five boards in 20 minutes of action while finishing with a team-best plus-minus rating of +18.
Julian Champagnie, the leading scorer in the BIG EAST heading into the contest, scored seven of his 12 points at the charity stripe and grabbed a team-high six boards. The sophomore converted on only two field goal tries, but they both came in huge moments; Champagnie hit a triple to bring the Red Storm within two with 7:21 to go before a driving bucket made it a two-possession game in favor of the Johnnies with just over a minute to play. The Bishop Loughlin High School product has reached double figures in all 13 of his appearances this season.
Fellow Brooklyn native Rasheem Dunn posted 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field and a 5-for-6 showing from the charity stripe, including a pair of clutch free throws to break a 64-64 tie with 3:33 to go.
Anchored by Alexander and Earlington, St. John's shot a season-best 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from three-point range.
St. John's committed more turnovers than its opponent for just the second time this season, but was able to hold its own on the boards (34-34) against a Connecticut team that leads the conference in rebounding margin. The Johnnies converted 10 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points.
The Huskies got off to a quick start, making each of their first three and five of their first seven 3-point attempts and jumping ahead by as many as 14 with less than eight minutes gone in the game.
St. John's settled down defensively and slowly chipped away at the UConn lead over the next six minutes, outscoring the Huskies, 16-5, and moving within three, 26-23, on a pair of Dunn free throws with 6:07 to play.
UConn rattled off five straight points to build its lead back to eight, but the Johnnies managed to cut the deficit back down to three by the end of the half.
During a first half where nothing seemed to be going right for the Red Storm, Dylan Addae-Wusu almost single-handedly kept St. John's in the game. The freshman scored all 10 of his points in the opening stanza, going 4-for-4 from the floor during the first 20 minutes of action.
A Josh Roberts layup to start the half brought the Red Storm within one, but turnovers began to bite St. John's and six straight UConn points ballooned the Huskies' lead back to seven, 41-34, with three and a half minutes gone in the period.
A quick 7-2 burst brought the Red Storm back within a pair, but another stretch of six unanswered for the Huskies gave the home team an eight-point edge, 49-41, with 13 minutes to play.
A pair of Earlington triples kept St. John's in the mix near the midway mark of the half before Tyrese Martin scored five straight to give UConn a 57-49 lead 8:50 remaining. From there, the Red Storm began its 10-2 run to tie the game. Earlington started the stretch with a pair of free throws before an Alexander three-point play brought Johnnies back within three. Champagnie answered a Martin layup with his first bucket of the game, a 3-pointer, before a 2-for-2 trip to the line from Alexander knotted the contest at 59.
The Red Storm and the Huskies traded baskets before Earlington's third triple of the night gave the Johnnies their first lead, 64-63, with 4:18 to play. A 1-for-2 trip to the line for R.J. Cole knotted the score at 64 on the next possession, but St. John's would retake the advantage for good on a pair of Dunn free throws with 3:33 to go.
UConn had a pair of opportunities to take the lead in the final minutes, as Martin went 0-for-2 at the line with his team down one before Tyler Polley hoisted a long three with the Johnnies ahead by two and just under 10 seconds left on the clock.
St. John's is scheduled to have nine days off before its next game, a road tilt at DePaul on Jan. 27. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET and the contest will air on FS1.