For their first season-plus under Mike Anderson, the Red Storm seemed unable to defeat conference opponents on the road.
They went 1-8 in Big East road games last season. And they dropped the first four conference games this season.
Then came the turnaround. St. John’s won three straight Big East road games for the first time since the 2012-13 season. Two of those wins came against Cincinnati and Rutgers, schools that left the conference years ago.
The third straight win came last Sunday, a 75-73 victory over Marquette, revenge for a two-point loss at Carnesecca Arena earlier in the season.
“The win was great,” said SJ guard Posh Alexander. “When we were on our way here, we just knew we were coming to win. They came to our house and basically stole one, so us coming in here and winning today is just amazing and everybody is happy about it.”
The triumph at Marquette followed road wins against Connecticut and DePaul. It’s the first time the Johnnies have won three straight Big East games of any kind since the 2014-15 season.
In the old days, head coach Lou Carnesecca joked that his recruiting budget was a pocket of subway tokens. The budget has gotten a bit bigger but Anderson has brought in city kids despite some initial worries that he didn’t have connections in the city when he took the job.
Alexander, who played at Our Saviour Lutheran in the Bronx, has been named Big East Freshman of the Week three times.
Also on the team is Alexander’s high school teammate Dylan Addae-Wusu.
“They are growing up,” Anderson said of the two last Sunday. “It looked like they were battle-tested and had been in the fire.”
Alexander had six steals on the night and Addae-Wusu hit a critical off-balance lay-up late in the game.
Anderson said Addae-Wusu “is better than anyone I have had at getting downhill in terms of north and south and getting to the basket and what a finish that was.”
Julian Champagnie led the Johnnies with 22 points in the win over Marquette. Champagnie, out of Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn, was the first city player to commit to playing for Anderson. Champagnie is leading the Big East with 19.7 points per game.
His father, Ranford, was a standout on the St. John’s soccer team that won the 1996 national championship, and he grew up attending SJU soccer camps in the summer. Champagnie has made the Big East honor roll three times this season.
As good as he has been, Anderson noted that the supporting cast scoring consistently would help lighten the load on Champagnie.
“I always say we can’t be a team that is dependent on one or two guys ... when you have got more balance, then they can’t zero in on one guy,” the head coach said.
It’s been a good time for Champagnie’s family, as his brother Justin is leading the Atlantic Coastal Conference with 20.1 points per game, playing for Pittsburgh. Georgia Tech’s Jose Alvarado from Christ the King High School is second in the ACC.