St. Johns defends St. Francis’ upset mess with Alexander out

For 30 minutes, an upset seemed not only possible. It seemed likely. Point guard Posh Alexander – the St John’s engine – sat on the bench in streetwear and a goose boot. St. Francis Brooklyn could not miss.

This would be that kind of loss at the beginning of the season to take a piece of air out of St. Louis. John’s balloon.

But when they apparently turned a switch, Johnnies found his defensive legs in the last 10 minutes. Coach Mike Anderson went to a small lineup with Julian Champagnie as his longest player to counter St. Francis fem-out attack. And his players, especially Champagnie, asserted themselves on the stretch to avoid the massive uproar, 76-70, at Carnesecca Arena.

During the last 10:04, St. Francis only six points and two scored field goals. Champagnie surpassed the Brooklyn school itself, 13-6, and finished with one of the better all-round matches of his career: 23 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals and four blocks. Montez Mathis followed with 20 points and Stef Smith and Dylan Addae-Wusu, who filled in for Alexander at this point, had 10 each.

The rally ensured that St. John’s avoided a terrible loss and wiped away the ugly first 30 minutes when they could not defend the perimeter, hammered on the glass and looked like they were stuck in quicksand.

Julian Champagnie thumps the ball for St. John’s.
Robert Sabo

St. John’s took its first lead since the opening minutes on a Mathis slam with 15:24 left, but St. Francis did not leave. Instead, the Terriers rebuilt the lead back to nine, creating anxious moments for Johnnies and the small crowd. A 12-0 run, which included eight points from Champagnie, raised the building, giving St. John’s a three-point lead with 5:46 left.

Given the mostly flat performance in the first 20 minutes, the lack of perimeter defense and poor 3-point shooting, St. John’s in a great place to lie down with just two.

At only 06:26 it looked like it could be a long night. St. Francis could not miss and scored 19 of the match’s first 25 points. Even after St. John’s responded with a 13-0 run to get even, a sprint lit by the defensively active Wheeler, the undefeated Terriers answered with nine straight points to go forward again. At one point, they were 9-of-14 from a distance, using their five-out strategy to create mismatches and wide-open appearances. They could still take back St. John’s with 21-13, which led to a 14-2 edge in the second chance.

Without Alexander and reserve guard Rafael Pinzon (fracture of his left ring finger), Addae-Wusu and Smith were given the lead. None of them acquitted themselves too early. Wusu had two turnovers and a minus-12 rating, as the offense too often returned to settle for long jump.


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