The St. John’s basketball team put together its best showing of the year against Colgate.
It was a game that could have caused the St. John’s basketball team trouble but the Johnnies (8-2) caught a break just prior to tipoff.
Colgate’s (4-7) best player, Nelly Cummings, was in street clothes and ruled out for the game as the guard is averaging 17.6 points per game and shooting 50.0-percent from 3-point range but St. John’s took full advantage of his absence.
The Johnnies, after a slow start, caught fire from the field behind an inspired effort from its bench unit with 34 points as the Red Storm rolled to victory, 82-64.
Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander led the way with 19 and 15 points, respectively, but it was the showing from Aaron Wheeler, Stef Smith, and Rafael Pinzon that made Sunday’s victory so impressive.
Wheeler, who did not play on Thursday against Monmouth due to a coaches decision, looked the best has has since joining St. John’s from Purdue this offseason.
“[Mike Anderson] wants me to play in the game like how I practice,” Wheeler said following the victory.
The 6-foot-9 forward posted seven points, three rebounds, and two assists in 15 minutes of action while he also had the second best +/- rating on the team at +17.
“Coming off the bench I think it’s important to make an impact immediately,” Wheeler explained.
Smith, who performed well off the bench against the Hawks, continued his strong play with seven points while Pinzon, who is still recovering from a fractured left ring finger, added a career-high 14 points, two rebounds, and three assists in 17 minutes.
St. John’s only turned the ball over six times, a season low for the Red Storm.
Champagnie surpassed 1,000 career points in the outing as the Johnnies celebrated head coach Mike Anderson’s 62nd birthday in style.
St. John’s basketball with one final non-conference game
There is one last tune-up for the Johnnies before Big East play begins and that will take place on Saturday, December 18 against Pittsburgh (3-6) at Madison Square Garden.
The Panthers have struggled this season but were able to defeat Colgate in its last outing, with Nelly Cummings on the floor.
“We have to continue to be all in,” Anderson said of what he is looking for from his team to know it will be ready for the rigors of Big East play.
The Red Storm head coach thinks his defense is ready for the challenge but has concerns about the team’s rebounding against the loaded front-courts of the conference.
St. John’s will open Big East play on the road against No. 23 Seton Hall (8-1) on Monday, December 20.