St. John’s basketball uses second half run to cruise to Thanksgiving victory

St. John's basketball guard Greg Williams Jr. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
St. John's basketball guard Greg Williams Jr. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. John’s basketball team used a second half run to cruise to a Thanksgiving Day victory.

Seventeen hours after its thrilling opening night victory over St. Peter’s the St. John’s basketball program was back out on the floor for its final game in the Lapchick Tournament against La Salle.

Without two of its best player, Julian Champagnie (ankle) and Rasheem Dunn (chin), the Johnnies brought more energy than they had the night before, but the Red Storm still looked out of control in their attack.

“What I said to them last night, and I said today too, We gotta have second, third, fourth efforts, we gotta create our own energy. And I thought that’s what we saw,” head coach Mike Anderson said.

After taking a 34-28 lead into the halftime locker room, St. John’s was able to maintain its energy in the second half but the team was much more controlled and focused in its attack, using a 17-5 run in the early stages of the second half to pull away from the Explorers.

St. John’s led by as many as 19 in the second half, but their lead shrunk to as little as eight before the Red Storm stepped on the gas pedal once more, winning 82-68.

Posh Alexander and Vince Cole stole the show in Wednesday’s victory, but the spark was veterans Greg Williams Jr. and Marcellus Earlington on Thursday, as the juniors carried the load in the midst of their team’s second half explosion.

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Despite foul trouble, Earlington was able to finish with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and hit two 3-pointers in the middle of the Johnnies’ run. The former Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) standout also finished with three rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

“We got better from our performance last night. In some areas, we didn’t, but it was good to see some guys come off our bench and give us a lift,” Anderson explained.

Williams Jr., who will be leaned on to score this season, came out much more aggressive the second half, ending his afternoon shooting 4-for-10 from the floor, resulting in 13 points, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal.

With the injury to Dunn, redshirt freshman John McGriff saw his first action at the collegiate level and drilled a 3-pointer on his first possession, his only points of the contest.

“It showed a lot. Next man up, that’s what Coach preaches,” Earlington said when speaking about the team’s depth, “We know we could play better.”

The junior said the returning players met before Thursday’s game and discussed that they needed to elevate their games.

Cole, last night’s hero, still led the way for a second consecutive game for St. John’s with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals on 6-of-17 shooting.

“He has a knack for getting buckets,” Anderson said.

St. John’s was able to force 26 turnovers, turning that into 33 points.

Things will get more difficult for the St. John’s basketball program.

Following back-to-back wins over mid-majors, St. John’s (2-0) will now get a taste of a power conference opponent for the first time as the team travels to Connecticut to face Boston College (1-0).

The Eagles will be playing their second major conference opponent in three games, but its non-major conference opponent is no slouch with the Rhode Island Rams.

Jim Christian‘s team took No. 3 Villanova down to the wire at Mohegan Sun Arena on Wednesday night and will face the Rams on Thursday.

As for getting their two standouts back, Anderson is unsure of the status of both Julian Champagnie and Rasheem Dunn.

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“He [Dunn] went to the hospital last night and he’s in concussion protocol. It’s too early to say whether he’ll be available Monday,” Anderson said as he also called Champagnie a “game time decision.”

Dunn will be available to play if he passes the concussion protocol and Champagnie appears as if he is trending in the right direction.

St. John’s and Boston College will play on Monday, November 30 with tipoff slated for 9:00pm EST on FS1.

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