Mike Anderson’s St. John’s Red Storm came into this game 14-14 and 3-12 in conference play. They had the task of handing the absolutely red-hot Creighton Bluejays (22-6), who came into the game in a tight race to win the conference’s regular season title. Anderson had to find a game plan that slows down the best shooting trio in the Big East, if not the country, in Mitch Ballock, Marcus Zegarowski, and Ty-Shon Alexander. They came into the game with over 200 combined three pointers, and shooting collectively above 40 percent.
SJU’s game plan was evident from the get-go, they were going to use tight off-ball pressure to not let Creighton get too many good looks from deep. The Jays countered by going inside along with creating a few backdoor opportunities that kept them around early despite going 0-8 from three the first 12 minutes of the game. The Damien Jefferson Show was in effect with the ineffectiveness of Creighton’s trio. Jefferson had a career-high 20 points on 8-9 from the field, paired with eight boards.
But it didn’t matter.
St. John’s was too good today. Every run Creighton put on, the Red Storm had an answer. With just under two and a half to play in the first half, Creighton seemed to be gaining all the momentum when David Caraher got an old fashioned three point play and Julian Champagnie banked a shot in from the top of the key with a foot on the three point line. Rasheem Dunn was a huge factor of what the Red Storm did in the first half, with Roberts hurt and Earlington on the bench essentially the whole half due to foul trouble. Dunn finished with 19 on 7-13 shooting and he seemed to get to the basket whenever he wanted.
In the second half, an unlikely tandem of three point shooting from L.J. Figueroa and Greg Williams Jr. carried the Red Storm. Williams came into the day shooting 28% from three, but today was a different story. Williams went 7-10 from three, five of the coming in the second half. Figueroa hit three from deep as well as the Storm took charge and never really looked back after back-to-back threes from Rutherford and Williams around the 12 minute mark.
Down the stretch four St. John’s threes in a span of 2 minutes put the game on ice at 84-64. SJU just seemed to have much more grit and tenacity in this one. You would think Creighton (having much more to play for) would be the team coming out with swagger and oozing competitiveness, but it was the home team wearing red. A lot of credit should be given to Mike Anderson as his team shows no signs of wilting down the stretch—which is semi-unusual for a .500 team with leading scorer out for the remainder of the season. This marked the first on-campus victory against a top ten opponent for St. John’s since 1975.
Notable Stat Lines
Julian Champagnie: 13 pts, 5 reb
L.J. Figueroa: 16 pts, 12 reb, 5 ast
Greg Williams: Jr 21 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast
Damien Jefferson: 20 pts, 8 reb
Ty-Shon Alexander: 19 pts, 4 reb
Things that I did not think I would say today but ended up saying:
• St. John’s (9th in the BE in 3P%) will go 14-22 from three and Creighton (1st in BE in 3P%) will shoot 4-27.
• SJU will go into the second half up six while Earlington and Roberts play a combined 4 minutes
• Ballock, Zegarowski, and Alexander will combine for 8-36 from the field and go 4-21 from deep.
Such is college basketball.
Creighton returns home and looks to regroup when they face Georgetown on Wednesday.
St. John’s looks to stay hot when they travel to Indianapolis to face Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Wednesday.