The Big East’s top scoring offense and leading scorer in Julian Champagnie brings credibility to St. John’s, but the past two games may have done significant damage to any NCAA Tournament aspirations.
The Red Storm hope to bounce back from two sub-par showings on Wednesday night when they host Providence in Queens, New York.
St. John’s (14-10, 8-9 Big East) leads the Big East top scoring offense at 79.2 points per game and Champagnie is averaging 20 points. Conversely, the Red Storm own the league’s worst scoring defense by allowing 77.4 points and it was on display in losses to DePaul and then-No. 8 Villanova.
The Red Storm averaged 81.3 points in a six-game winning streak from Jan. 18 to Feb. 6, a stretch that included wins at UConn and over Villanova. Since a 92-81 win at Providence, the Red Storm have dropped three of four to damage their NCAA Tournament chances.
“We just got to regroup and get back to playing the winning basketball we were playing (during the winning streak),” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said.
On Feb. 20, the Red Storm shot a season-low 33.8 percent, allowed 63-percent shooting and took an 88-83 home loss to DePaul. Three days later things went even worse in an 81-58 setback at Villanova when St. John’s shot 36.2 percent, including 3-of-23 from 3-point range and allowed 48.3 percent from the floor.
“We couldn’t make a shot,” Anderson said. “We missed some layups, missed some free throws. A lot of things that could go wrong did go wrong.”
Champagnie was held to 16 but the worst development was standout freshman Posh Alexander injuring his thumb, though the school said it was not broken and he will likely play Wednesday. Alexander is averaging 11.1 points and his 62 steals lead the Big East.
The Friars (12-11, 8-9) are playing better, especially defensively while going 3-1 in their last four games, since the loss to St. John’s. From Jan. 2 to Feb. 6, Providence dropped seven of nine and allowed 72.1 points, but in the last four games the Friars are allowing 61.8 points on 40.5-percent shooting and 25.9 percent from 3-point range.
On Thursday, Providence rebounded from a 12-point loss at UConn on Feb. 16 with an 83-68 win over Xavier. Noah Horchler scored a season-high 20 points and added nine rebounds while David Duke flirted with a triple-double by totaling 18 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.
“I think that was our most complete game from start to finish of the season,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said.
Duke produced his best game since scoring 31 against Marquette on Jan. 27. In his previous six games before Thursday, Duke averaged 10.8 points on 28.6 percent (20-of-70) from the floor.
Nate Watson, who scored 30 in the first meeting with St. John’s, added 15 as Providence shot 53.7 percent and hit 11 3-pointers.
–Field Level Media