This was the first basketball game played in the brand new UBS Arena, and St. John’s came into this game hoping to knock off 8th ranked Kansas. They were aiming to earn an early-season signature win against a top 10 team but came out of this game looking like they didn’t belong. St. John’s has a lot of work to do if it will hang with the best of the best come March.
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St. John’s took a 2-0 lead, but it would be the last time they would hold the lead for the rest of the game. Kansas went on their first run of the game, taking a 13-2 lead just over four minutes in, as St. John’s continued their struggles early in games. The Red Storm got it down to 5 after a Posh Alexander three-point play with 6:30 left in the first half. It would be the closest they get in the first period. St. John’s struggled in the paint, as Kansas’ David McCormack had 11 points and eight rebounds, and the Jayhawks outrebounded the Red Storm 24-13.
Streaky scoring was an issue for St. John’s all night. Ochai Agbaji finished the opening half with 16 points, including 4 for seven from three for Kansas. After an Alexander layup with 3:39 left in the first half, the team only scored two more points as they went into halftime down 43-30. Prolonged scoring droughts, lack of rebounding, and untimely turnovers proved costly for the Red Storm. Alexander led the way for the Johnnies with 10 points and two assists.
St. John’s needed a quick start in the 2nd half and came out on fire right out of the gate. After an ugly first half that saw Julian Champagnie struggle mightily (1-3 from the field, with four turnovers in 16 minutes played), he and the team got it going in the 2nd half. St. John’s went on a 5-0 run right after halftime, forcing Kansas to mix it up after a time out. Champagne started the half 5 for five from three-point range as the two teams went back and forth. A pair of Champagnie free throws brought the deficit to three. That’s as close as it got.
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Kansas turned it on and reminded everyone why they are ranked in the top 10. Leading 64-61 with 10:34 left in the game, Kansas tightened it up on defense and started to make big shots. The Jayhawks went on an 11-0 run led by Agbaji and sophomore guard Christian Braun. St. John’s went ice cold again, failing to score for about five minutes. A couple of Dylan Addae-Wusu free throws ended the drought, making it 75-63 with 5:40 left to play. Addae-Wusu fouled out shortly afterwards, finishing his night with 16 points, four assists, and two steals. In that stretch, Kansas went on a 22-3 run to put the game out of reach with 3:45 left on the clock. They would win with a final score of 95-75.
Kansas’ bench only scored 12 points in this game, but it doesn’t matter when three starters combine for 69 points. McCormack was a bully down low, netting a double-double in this one with 15 points and 13 rebounds (8 offensive rebounds). Agbaji went 5 for nine from three, finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds. Braun was the star in this one, as he scored a career-high 31 points (9 of 10 from the free-throw line) to go with eight rebounds and four assists.
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For St. John’s, Champagnie finished with 24 points (6 of 9 from three-point range) and eight rebounds. Alexander contributed 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting with three assists. Addae-Wusu came off the bench to drop 16 points (6-7 from the line), with a team-leading four assists before fouling out. If St. John’s will be taken seriously against top teams, more consistency is needed from its supporting cast. A combined 5 for 21 from Soriano (more fouls than points and rebounds combined), Smith, Mathis, Wheeler, and Coburn isn’t going to cut it. Someone has to step up down low for the Red Storm. They were outrebounded 47-29, out-scored in the paint 48-24, and had only 6-second chance points to Kansas’ 24.
Kansas’ (6-1) next game will be at home versus UTEP (4-3) on December 7th. St. John’s (5-2) will host Fordham (6-3) on December 5th.
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