With the St. John’s Red Storm improving to 6-1 at home and 7-2 overall, the Red Storm have shown that they are aware of the importance of protecting their home court. Since losing to Arizona State nearly two weeks ago, the Red Storm have bounced back to extend their winning streak to three games [at Carnesecca Arena]. The Red Storm combined for a total of 79 points against the St. Peter’s Peacocks of Jersey City, New Jersey.
The first half of the contest mirrored a scrimmage for the Red Storm. Initially, they appeared to be cruising towards an easy victory. However, the Red Storm had some shaky moments in the second half. During the period we saw the Peacocks cut the lead to six. Albeit, the Red Storm held on to the lead and coasted to the win by a margin of 10 points [79-69].
“First of all, there’s all kinds of ways to win games,” said St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson. “We got off to a pretty good start and I have to give credit to Coach [Shaheen] Holloway. He had his guys scrapping and clawing and I thought they took the fight to us at times, and that enabled them to kind of hang around, even with a big lead. With the three-point line in play, the lead is never safe.”
With respect to the Peacocks late rally, Coach Anderson replied,
“Those kids would not quit. It was a good test for us. The biggest key is to get the win and now we got to really hone in on our defense and the finishing part of defense is rebounding the basketball.”
Continuing, “From my vantage point we got to learn how to get multiple stops. During that time, they just got more aggressive. They started getting all the loose balls and hanging around. All of a sudden, the ball started bouncing their way and we saw that tonight. But to our guy’s credit, LJ [Figueroa] stepped up to the line and knocked free throws down to get us out of here.”
The Peacocks managed to outscore the Red Storm in the second half by a score of 46-42.
Junior guard LJ Figueroa led the Red Storm in scoring. Figueroa finished the game with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists. It was another solid night on the floor for senior guard Mustapha Heron. Heron contributed with 17 points. And lastly, freshman guard Julian Champagnie put up a double-double, Champagnie scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Although the Red Storm never trailed in the game and did close out the first half by a score of 37-23. The team had to be honest with their assessment.
“I think we got sloppy. I think that’s the word right there that hit it. We got sloppy and they took advantage of it,” said Heron.
The Peacocks only had two players in double digits. Freshman guard Aaron Estrada lead the way with 18 points, he also added five assists and four rebounds. Estrada’s teamate freshman forward and sidekick Fousseyni Drame pitched in with 10 points and five rebounds.
“I pretty much agree with Mustapha, really sloppy,” said Champagnie. “We’ve got to be on the offensive glass, they did a really wonderful job. The turnovers really killed us today.”
Collectively, the Red Storm shot for 47.5% on 29 of 61 shooting. They hit on 8 out of 20 three pointers [40%] and shot for 65% from the free throw line [13/20]. The Red Storm came up big defensively, down the stretch securing eight blocks and nine steals. And out of the 44 team rebounds the Red Storm grabbed 18 of them were on the offensive end. Getting the extra looks at the basket allowed the Red Storm to overcome the 19 turnovers that were committed.
The Red Storm challenge the West Virginia Mountaineers at Madison Square Garden this coming Saturday.
“We’re going to prepare for them like we prepare for anybody else,” said Heron. “We’re going to get back into the gym and we’re going to work. We’re going to just watch a little film on them. We’re not going to change anything that we do. We’ll come as the same St. John’s that you guys have been seeing on Saturday, so we’re just going to get ready for them.”
Coach Anderson is looking towards the challenge as well.
“We’re looking forward to playing West Virginia. Obviously, Madison Square Garden is our other home. It’s a great venue. The Mecca of Basketball. We have to create a home court environment. That means our fans need to come out. West Virginia is a tremendous basketball team coached by Bob Huggins, a Hall of Fame coach. They’re a very physical basketball team. I think their strength is they can shoot it and go get it. It’s going to be really important that we put bodies on people and match their physicality. We got to continue to do things we do, but I think the emphasis is we have to do the finishing part and rebound the basketball, so it should be a great game. It’s the BIG EAST versus the Big 12 so we’re looking forward to it.”