Mike Anderson has made sure no opponent would be overlooked or underestimated in the first month of his first season as head coach at St. John’s. When an overmatched opponent comes to Queens, the Red Storm send it home with a concrete understanding of the difference between their programs, players and potential.
In picking up its seventh win of the season, 79-69 over Saint Peter’s on Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena, St. John’s — led by LJ Figueroa’s 19 points — claimed its seventh double-digit win of the season.
Now, St. John’s (7-2) gets another chance to prove it can achieve much more.
Following another 40 minutes of low stakes and lower drama, the Red Storm will play their first game this season at Madison Square Garden on Saturday against West Virginia (7-0) in the Big 12-Big East Challenge. St. John’s has gone 1-2 against teams with winning records this season and the Mountaineers may be an even taller hurdle, sitting just outside the Top 25 after receiving 28 votes in the latest AP Poll.
“We’re progressing,” Anderson said following the Red Storm’s previous win, Saturday over Wagner. “I’m a fast-paced guy, but I think the guys are doing some good things. Even in the losses we’ve had, it’s an opportunity for us to learn from it. … Where we are at the end of November, we’ll be different at the beginning of January. It’s a team with a lot of parts and we’re trying to put these parts together and put them in a position where they can be successful.”
In the first meeting between the nearby teams since 1976, the Peacocks (1-4) — who entered scoring fewer than 59 points per game, with just one double-digit scorer — were overwhelmed from the start and fell to 0-18 all-time against St. John’s.
Saint Peter’s committed three turnovers before producing a point. By the time the Peacocks had scored four points, they had already turned the ball over seven times. Before nine minutes had passed, the Peacocks had committee nine turnovers. They hit four of their first 18 shots. They missed their first seven 3-point attempts. They shot under 28 percent from the field in the first half.
Meanwhile, St. John’s freshman Julian Champagnie (14 points, 11 rebounds) hit his first three shots — including two 3-pointers — and combined with Figueroa (five rebounds, three steals) to spark a 12-0 run that put the Red Storm up 20-4. The run grew to 20-2, bringing the lead to 28-6 just over 11 minutes into the game.
St. John’s was tremendous in sharing the ball for a second straight game — garnering assists on 20 of its first 25 made field goals — but also committed 11 first-half turnovers. The Red Storm’s sloppiness cut their lead to 37-23 at halftime.
The margin grew to 25 and St. John’s appeared as if it wouldn’t be threatened all evening, but the Peacocks made a 19-2 run in the final minutes, cutting the deficit to six with less than a minute to play. Fousseyni Drame had a chance to slice it to four, but missed a pair of free throws with 37 seconds left.