Smiles all around, especially from freshman guard Posh Alexander.
A ranked victory and stunner for the St. John's Red Storm (8-7, 3-5) over the Huskies of the University of Connecticut (7-2, 4-2) by a score of 74-70 inside Gampel Pavillion on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day afternoon. The contest was pushed forward from 5 p.m. into the national 2:30 p.m. FOX slot, due to the cancellation of the Howard/Notre Dame contest due to COVID-19 related issues within the Howard program.
The victory has been eight years in the making since UConn and St. Johns' previous contest. But, it's been over two whole decades since the Red Storm were able to put together a victory over these Huskies on the road. The victory also marks the first ranked victory since the Greg Williams, Jr. show last year against then No. 10 Creighton inside Carnesecca Arena.
St. John's began the contest in a 21-7 hole, that featured a 15-2 run in favor of the Huskies. Head Coach Mike Anderson called a timeout just before the under 12 media timeout, where he inserted freshman Dylan Addae-Wusu, and junior forward Marcellus Earlington to shake things up on the defensive side of the ball.
Turns out, Earlington was able to do just that, and more on the offensive side of the ball. See below:
Here are my five thoughts from the stunner:
1. Posh Alexander - Machine:
If you watched the Marquette contest, and this afternoon's contest, you'd understand why I say that freshman guard Posh Alexander is not human. Alexander tallied 18 total points, grabbed four rebounds, assisted on six buckets, and even blocked one basket in 36 minutes on the hardwood. Lest we forget, he also hit three quality and timely treys in six attempts to help his team earn the victory.
The reason why we brought up the Marquette victory, is because he is unafraid to go to the basket and get scrappy in the low post. On Saturday in Queens, Alexander took two hard falls, which caused Alexander to sustain a back injury. All while taking a couple inside Gampel. All of this, while not practicing yesterday ahead of this game.
Huskies head coach Dan Hurley spoke highly about the budding freshman star, "Posh Alexander absolutely destroyed us off the dribble."
2. Extraordinary Bench Performance:
You did see the go-ahead three from junior forward Marcellus Earlington right? Yes, we put him in this category because he did, in fact, come off the bench. As did the aforementioned Addae-Wusu, who were both able to combine for 25 bench points, and grab 10 boards. Isaih Moore also tallied one bucket as well in 11 minutes on the floor. They also put up a performance that was extra notable, due in large part, to the lackluster performance of the BIG EAST's leading scorer, Julian Champagnie.
3. Taking Advantage without James Bouknight:
Following the game, we heard Huskies head coach Dan Hurley speak about life without All-BIG EAST second teamer, and the second leading scorer behind Champagnie, Bouknight, whose been out for the previous four games due to elbow surgery. "It's going to be a problem. We can overcome that, but we can't give up 74 points. We've got to play elite defense. We're not winning a game like this in the 70s." The Johnnies welcome the Huskies to Carnesecca Arena on January 31.
Adama Sanogo, RJ Cole, Jalen Gaffney, and Tyrese Martin combined for 12 fouls, and 45 points. The Huskies only tallied 10 bench points, and lost the battle in the paint, which is normally a strong suit for them. In the beginning of the game, the rebounding differential was 8-2 within the first three minutes.
The aformentioned Sanogo did not play in the final 12 minutes of the game. Hurley said the reasoning was to match the length of the small-ball Johnnies. Sanogo did not see it that way, "At the end of the game, I felt like they should've played me a little bit more."
4. Greg Williams, Jr. re-injured his back:
Cause for concern? We'd say yes. Mike Anderson says he needs to get looked at. He only played six minutes, and took one shot in the contest this afternoon. The positive news here, is that the Johnnies will be playing a game in seven full days, so there is room for healing if the injury is severe, or not.
5. Taking advantage of turnover opportunities:
The Red Storm were unable to take full advantage of points off turnover, as St. John's tallied 12 points, on UConn's 14 turnovers. The Johnnies were able to tally 18 points off second chance turnovers. Additionally, they were also able to grab 34 rebounds, and tie the Huskies in that category. At one point, the offensive rebounds for UConn was an 8-2 disparity. The game ended with 14-10 in favor of the Huskies.
5A. Enjoy the victory, Johnnies Fans:
This one, below, is for you. Do not soak it in for too long. There's much more basketball to be played.
St. John's returns to the hardwood following its bye-week on Wednesday, January 27 for a 9 p.m. tipoff against the DePaul Blue Demons from Wintrust Arena. The game can be viewed on FS1.