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St. John’s holds off Marquette in Milwaukee

Are the Johnnies tournament bound?

St. John’s came away with another win on Sunday, picking up a 75-73 victory over the Marquette Golden Eagles. These teams have been trending in opposite directions since their match-up on January 16th. Marquette escaped that game with a 73-71 victory, but followed it up with two poor losses to DePaul and Providence. As Marquette entered a losing streak, St. John’ s rattled off three wins in a row including wins at UConn and DePaul. With both teams on the fringes of the bubble, this win could prove to elevate St. John’s into the tournament while likely ending Marquette’s tournament dreams.

Big East leading scorer Julian Champagnie got going early knocking down two 3’s to guide St. John’s to an early 17-9 lead. He stayed hot as the Johnnies attempted to put the game out of reach in the first half. Champagnie would finish the half with 15 points while his team held a seemingly secure (spoilers) 15 point lead.

Marquette would come out of the break hot, erasing their 15 point deficit on a Jamal Cain three that would tie the game at 51 with 14:46 to go. St. John’s would quickly follow up with a tun of their own pushing their lead back to double-digits with 10 min to play. Despite falling behind again, Marquette wasn’t done. Much like the first game, this game came down to the wire. With St. John’s up one Posh Alexander would strip DJ Carton and finish the fast break layup at the 1:26 marker. Down two with less than 10 seconds to play, Marquette had a chance to force OT. Koby McEwen drove and took a lot of body contact going to the rim, but did not get the call. Luckily for Marquette, they still had possession with an out-of-bounds opportunity to win or tie. The Golden Eagles would squander this chance as Carton would throw the ball away.

St. John’s (11-7, 5-6 in Big East) stays hot and continues their push towards the tournament. After a dominant first half, the Red Storm looked asleep to start the second half. They easily could have rolled over, but instead they showed a lot of resolve to step up and finish this game. Their wins might not be pretty, but they keep finding ways to win. Julian Champagnie continues to make his case for Big East player of the year, finishing with 22 points and seven rebounds. Posh Alexander was huge in this win. The freshman had his fourth straight game with 15+ points while also finishing with a season-high six steals.

Marquette (8-9, 4-7) continues to be a sad team. Despite their losses, this team has remained on lists of “teams on the bubble.” Losing games like this will likely end their inclusion on these lists. Justin Lewis was a late scratch and his presence was missed. The team finished with 0 bench points. ZERO! Wojo decided to start with Dawson Garcia on Champagnie. Even though this was a clear mismatch early on (not that Garcia is a bad overall defender, but he is not a perimeter defender and does not have the lateral quickness to guard Champagnie), Wojo didn’t make anyone else the primary defender on Champagnie until he put Jamal Cain on him late in the second half. This team has a lot of talent and, like their run coming out of the halftime break, shows how great they can be in spurts. But they can’t play well consistently and continue to find ways to lose games. Marquette fans keep hoping this talented team can figure out their consistency problems and turn it around, but time is running out.

Next, St. John’s brings in the #3 team in the country as Villanova travels to NYC for their match-up on February 3rd. St. John’s best win this season comes against a James Bouknight-less UConn team, so they really don’t have a truly impressive win yet. A win against #3 Villanova could elevate St. John’s out of the on-the-bubble group and into being securely in the tournament.

Marquette and their losing record are staying home to face Butler on February 2nd. Marquette and Butler are tied at 4-7 in conference play. With Butler having lost five of their last six games, both teams will be desperate to turn their season around.