It’s official: St. John’s is on a winning streak.
And, like last year’s strong finish, it’s getting there with its defense.
Mike Anderson’s pressuring, uptempo style appears to be improving by the game. Wednesday night, it was instrumental in St. John’s third-straight win, an 81-68 victory over DePaul in Chicago.
The Johnnies scored 30 points off 18 turnovers, finishing well in transition after struggling to do so earlier this year. Freshman point guard Posh Alexander was the linchpin again, producing 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals as DePaul was held to 38 percent shooting and hit only four 3-pointers coming off of its lone league win over Marquette on Saturday.
It wasn’t pretty. It was, in fact, ugly on occasion. St. John’s (10-7, 4-6) shot just 27 percent from 3-point range. Big East leading scorer Julian Champagnie battled through ankle and hand injuries to score 16 points. The Johnnies clearly miss junior Greg Williams Jr. (back), and they allowed 19 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points.
But as February nears, St. John’s does appear to be hitting its stride. Its depth showed on this night. Vince Cole filled in for Williams with a team-high 18 points and Isaih Moore scored 15 points off the bench, performing well for the second straight game. Recently installed starter Josh Roberts made an impact in the paint with seven rebounds and two blocks.
St. John’s built a 13-point lead in the first half on the strength of a 15-7 run that included six points from freshman Dylan Addae-Wusu. It led by 15 at the half on the strength of 12 points apiece from Alexander and Cole.
The lead fluctuated between 15 and 10 for most of the second half. DePaul did go on a mini-run to get within seven. But Champagnie scored on a drive, Alexander had a three-point play and Cole sank a 3-pointer, pushing the lead back to 15 with 3:42 remaining.
Soon, St. John’s would be celebrating another victory. That 1-5 start in league play feels like months ago.
St. John’s game Sunday against UConn was postponed after an official in the UConn-Butler game tested positive for COVID-19. The Johnnies are still expected to have a game this weekend, but it will be against a yet-to-be-decided opponent. … The school announced redshirt junior wing David Caraher will graduate and transfer. Caraher took a leave of absence from the team three weeks ago and has been back home in North Carolina.