St. John’s basketball escapes late meltdown in OT win over NJIT

St. John's basketball guard Montez Mathis (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball guard Montez Mathis (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

A second half collapse was barely escaped by the St. John’s basketball team on its home floor. 

It was nearly a catastrophic afternoon in Queens for the St. John’s basketball program.

The Johnnies (5-1), who struggled on its home floor in its last two games, had another slow start against NJIT (2-3) inside Carnesecca Arena before seemingly taking control in the second half behind a 14-3 run that put the Red Storm up by 16 points.

However, St. John’s would then meltdown on the offensive end scoring only five points in the final 11 minutes of the game as the Highlanders were able to force overtime at 61 apiece.

The NJIT run came on the heels of Julian Champagnie, Posh Alexander, and Esahia Nywie being pulled once the lead jumped to 16 points.

Nywie put the best game together of his St. John’s career, playing nearly 15 minutes and being active on both ends of the floor.

The Johnnies would eventually outscore NJIT by nine points in the extra five minutes to win, 77-68, after a shot by Alexander in the final seconds of regulation was missed.

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St. John’s turned the ball over 18 times in the victory and struggled shooting from 3-point range again, making only 5-of-24 shots.

The Red Storm are now a combined 13-of-57 (22.8-percent) from downtown over its last three games.

Alexander called the first half performance “lazy” by St. John’s but feels like the team put forth a better effort in the second half.

Joel Soriano was able to create a mismatch in the paint as he was tied for the team high in points with 16, as his 3-point play in overtime put separation between the Johnnies and the Highlanders.

Posh Alexander also finished with 16 point in the win as he made his return to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game against St. Francis with a lower leg injury, which he suffered in the loss to Indiana.

Champagnie ended the night with 14 points and 10 rebounds on 6-of-17 shooting from the floor.

St. John’s basketball happy with extended time off prior to next showdown

The schedule, which has been much talked about this season, takes a massive jump for St. John’s as the Johnnies will host No. 4 Kansas (4-1) on Friday night at the new UBS Arena at Belmont Park.

However, the Red Storm are grateful that the team nearly has a week off prior to the game as it will give players a chance to reset and get healthy.

Rafael Pinzon missed his third straight game with a fractured ring finger on his left hand but Anderson said following the game that the freshman guard has continued to keep his conditioning up as he will resume shooting next week.

Alexander, clearly not fully healthy, will use the time to get his leg back to full strength.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. between the Red Storm and Jayhawks in another massive resume opportunity for St. John’s.

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