St. John’s basketball can still win without production from best player

St. John's basketball (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports) /

St. John’s basketball proved something it needed to in its win over Connecticut. 

The entire Big East Conference knows who the best player on the St. John’s basketball team is.

There’s no hiding it or debating it, Julian Champagnie is the best player on the Red Storm (8-7, 3-6 Big East).

But the Johnnies answered one of its biggest questions and proved something to the rest of the league in its win over No. 23 UConn (7-4, 4-2 Big East) on Monday afternoon.

St. John’s doesn’t need Julian Champagnie to have his ‘A+’ performance each time he steps on the floor to win basketball games.

“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,” head coach Mike Anderson said after his team’s 74-70 victory over the Huskies.

The Brooklyn, New York native finished with 12 points, seven coming from the free throw line, but his two made field goals were critical in St. John’s comeback as a 3-pointer brought the Red Storm within two in the second half and a layup that pushed the Johnnies’ lead to four with under 90 seconds to play.

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“You are going to see some different guys on different nights, so tonight it was Dylan [Addae-Wusu] and Marcellus [Earlington] in the waning moments of the game,” Anderson explained.

Addae-Wusu and Earlington combined for 25 points and 10 rebounds on 9-of-13 shooting. Earlington was a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range and gave St. John’s its first lead of the game with 4:24 to play with a triple from the corner.

Despite Julian Champagnie having his lowest scoring output of the season, Anderson has confidence in his sophomore star that he can impact the game in other ways, “I didn’t think he got frustrated even though he missed shots early on that he normally makes.”

“He had a rough night, but we got the trust that he can go out and make plays, whether it be free throws or defensively. That is the sign of a good player, when a guy can still have an impact on a game when he isn’t scoring or at his best, and it makes a big impact on our basketball team.”

Entering Monday’s showdown Champagnie was averaging 20.7 points per game, the best scoring average by any Big East player this year.

St. John’s basketball players always have confidence in its star

Even though Julian Champagnie didn’t have his best outing, his teammates always have trust in him to make the big play at the biggest moment.

“If Julian [Champagnie] has a bad first half or start to the second, I know he is going to come back to the team,” freshman point guard Posh Alexander said, “We basically live and die with him, so, if he takes a couple bad shots and misses, we are going to go with that because I know that a majority of his shots are going to go in.”

Champagnie hit two clutch free throws that put the game out of reach with four seconds to play and recorded his second blocked shot on the ensuring possession as time as set to expire.

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St. John’s is a team that continues to build its confidence and Monday was “another step in the right direction” as Anderson stated.

“I personally feel like we can beat every team in the country and in the league,” Posh Alexander said.

The Johnnies needed a boost of confidence, something that would invigorate the entire team and it looks like it got just what it needed, beating a ranked team without its best player playing his best game.

St. John’s has a chance to rest and recover as it is not in action again until Wednesday, January 27 against the DePaul Blue Demons (2-4, 0-4 Big East).