The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Season In Photos: Men’s Basketball Finishes In Big East Basement

Despite being picked for a fourth-place finish in the preseason coaches poll, the Johnnies limped to a seventh-place spot in the Big East.
Posh Alexander sad on the court defeated.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

There was a hunch that the Big East conference would be at its best in the 2021-22 season, given it regained Connecticut in the prior campaign and was considering expansion for the first time since the 2010-2013 realignment. Few expected the conference to be quite as good as the season shook out, with six teams qualifying for the NCAA Tournament and a couple bubble teams faltering down the stretch. Gaining an arsenal of transfer students to compliment the solidified All-Big East talents Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander, the Johnnies’ were slated to finish fourth in the preseason coaches poll. But when the games were played, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team never found a consistent rhythm, and the Big East field was a cut above. Here’s how the 2021-22 Men’s Basketball season turned out, in photos.

Tip-Off 2021: Students “Show Out” For First Ticketed Event Since 2020

St. John's point guard Alexander promotes tip-off.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

The St. John’s point guard Posh Alexander smiles ahead of the return of Tip-Off, the annual preseason event marking the start of the Men’s and Women’s basketball season. The first ticketed event since the COVID-19 pandemic was a resounding success, with over 4,000 students in attendance.

St. John’s Rolls Past Mississippi Valley St., 119-61 in Home Opener

TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

St. John’s pummelled Mississippi Valley State, the worst team in Division I according to both offensive and defensive statistics, to the tune of 119-61 enroute to their eighth straight victory to open their season on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at Carnesecca Arena.

It was a historic victory for the Johnnies despite the subpar competition as they scored the most points in a game since 1990, when the Red Storm scored 135 in a program-best effort against Central Connecticut State. Their 58-point margin of victory was their largest in over half a century, when they won by 60 points in a game on Nov. 28, 1951.

St. John’s Falls to Kansas, 95-75, in First Ever Basketball Game at UBS Arena

Addae-Wusu takes a shot at UBS Arena.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

Sophomore guard Dylan Addae-Wusu steps to the charity stripe against Kansas, an eventual No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Johnnies found themselves down early, and couldn’t overcome the sluggish start, a theme that would continue throughout the season.

TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

Montez Mathis charged the court in a fast-break against the Kansas defense. Despite multiple efforts to erase the deficit, the Red Storm faltered and the Jayhawks pulled away in the game’s final minutes. The game represented one of two chances to secure a signature non-conference victory, and ignited criticism over the team’s scheduling.

St. John’s Makes Their Bench Presence Felt in 82-64 Win vs. Colgate

Pinzon, backup point guard, dribbles against Colgate.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

Rafael Pinzon, the freshman point guard who bolstered the Red Storm backcourt early in the season, was subbed in versus Colgate and provided tremendous energy. Pinzon sank a three-point goal less than a minute after entering the game and followed with a two to trim Colgate’s lead to one point. From that point on, it was all St. John’s. The win — against an eventual NCAA Tournament team — coincided with star forward Julian Champagnie’s thousandth career point.

St. John’s Drops the Gotham Classic Finale, 59-57 at Madison Square Garden

Smith takes a shot at MSG against Pittsburgh in the Gotham Classic.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

Just hours before tip-off, it was reported that St. John’s star forward Julian Champagnie had a breakthrough positive COVID-19 case and would be unavailable for the noon game at Madison Square Garden versus Pittsburgh in the Gotham Classic finale. St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said the team was notified a few days earlier, significantly shifting the game plan. “That’s the adjustment for a team,” Anderson said. “That’s one of your leading scorers [that can’t play], but I told our guys someone else has to step up.”

Posh Alexander sad on the court defeated.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

St. John’s fell to Pittsburgh 59-57 in their first game at Madison Square Garden with fans since the cancelation of the 2020 Big East Tournament. In the midst of another COVID-19 outbreak in sports, the Gotham Classic finale was not left untouched. Anderson replaced Champagnie with Aaron Wheeler and left the starting five around him untouched from previous contests. The group started off both slow and inefficient on offense, battling at the glass on both ends of the court. By the end of the contest, St. John’s was downright embarrassed by a largely unthreatening Pittsburgh team.

COVID-19 Outbreak Forces Postponements

In response to a slew of cancelations across the league, the Big East reversed course and offered the possibility of rescheduled games. “Under the modified policy, a Conference game will be canceled in the event a school has fewer than seven scholarship players and one countable coach available for a game,” it was announced in a statement. “The BIG EAST Conference Office will attempt to reschedule any such game(s) in accordance with parameters approved by BIG EAST Directors of Athletics.”

In the event a game cannot be rescheduled, it will be designated as a no-contest rather than a forfeiture. As part of the announcement, any game previously designated as a forfeit would be rescheduled for a later date.

On Dec. 23rd it was announced that COVID-19 issues within the St. John’s program forced the cancelation of a home game versus Butler. It was never confirmed which players tested positive, but due to the new Big East protocols, we can say that at least four to five players tested positive in addition to Champagnie.

Since the policy was changed, there was no reason for St. John’s to delay canceling games. On Dec. 27th, the athletic department announced that the program’s next two games would be canceled against Marquette and Georgetown. It would be a total of 18 days since the team’s last game against Pittsburgh before the Johnnies would take the floor again, including a total of four postponements. The game versus Marquette would never be played due to scheduling conflicts between the two programs.

St. John’s Secures Dominant Win Versus Georgetown At The Garden

Champagnie finishes at the basket at MSG versus Georgetown.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

The first Big East conference game at Madison Square Garden in the 2021-22 basketball season was against Georgetown, the reigning Big East Tournament champions that would conclude the entire conference slate without a victory. Champagnie, who is pictured finishing at the basket, scored 25 points joining a total of five Johnnies in double figures.

 

Champagnie celebrates versus Georgetown.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

Champagnie celebrates with a teammate on the way to a dominant, 88-69 victory, in a game that the Georgetown Hoyas never led. When the season concluded, the contest was the only regular-season win at Madison Square Garden.

Anderson Unable To Reconcile Lost Season After Dropping Second Straight Game

Stanley takes a free throw against UConn.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

An unfathomable scoring drought to end the game wasted an admirable effort from St. John’s for the better part of 30 minutes, leaving fans, players and coaches searching for answers amidst a lost season. The 63-60 loss versus No. 24 Connecticut, in the first matchup with the Huskies at home since they departed the conference nearly ten years ago, was the latest evidence of a Red Storm team unable to close out a must-win game.

Soriano grabs the rebound against UConn.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

The team missed 16 layups in the contest, which had been an issue all season. Same with shooting percentage, rebounding and free-throw shooting — essentially, all of the components of a good offensive basketball team.

“The amount of lay-ups we miss a game is unacceptable,” said junior forward Julian Champagnie, who had been fighting through the worst slump of his career, after the loss. “We have to get better at it, that goes for myself and everybody else.” As to why such an experienced, veteran team is struggling with trivial components to the game of basketball, no one had an answer.

“Carnesecca After Dark” Ends In Gloom Against No. 15 Providence

Nyiwe hangs from the basket against Butler.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

Nyiwe hanged from the rim after going up for the board in a late-night, Top-25 matchup at Carnesecca Arena. St. John’s played close with league-leading No. 15 Providence in front of a full house in Queens, but ultimately came up short against the Friars, 86-82, despite an attempt at late-game heroics.

Bench erupts in celebration against Butler.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

With a packed house behind them, the Red Storm channeled the deafening volume of St. John’s fans onto their on-court play. “We really appreciate the fans coming out and supporting us,” Posh Alexander said in a postgame media conference. “It’s still great to have them in the gym cheering us on.” Both teams came out with an up-tempo performance reminiscent of the Johnnies’ last win at Seton Hall.

Alexander celebrates against Providence at 'Carnesecca After Dark.'
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

“I thought we were in attack mode and our defense was really in tune,” Anderson said. It was all centered around Alexander on Tuesday night, who willed himself to the basket with on and off-ball screens throughout the game’s final minutes.

Red Storm Unable To Close Out Whiteout Game, Fall To Creighton, 81-78

Mathis takes a free throw against Creighton/
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

In a tale that had become all too familiar for Red Storm fans this season, the Men’s Basketball team was unable to close out a must-win game despite leading with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. The team failed to score again for nearly three minutes, culminating in the 81-78 loss to Creighton on Wednesday, Feb. 23 at Carnesecca Arena.

Johnnies Destroy Blue Demons, Advance to Big East Quarterfinals

TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

St. John’s pummeled DePaul in a tremendous post-season performance, 92-73, in the opening round of the Big East Tournament on Wednesday, March 9. With stupendous defense and passing, boasting behind-the-back tosses and lob attempts, the team looked like the pressure of the conference tournament had not fazed them. Julian Champagnie — the star junior forward — stole the show, scoring 24 points to lead his team to an easy victory against a team they struggled with late in the season.

A Tale Of Two Halves: St. John’s Blows A 17-Point Lead Versus No. 2 Villanova

Wheeler leaps under the basket against Villanova.
TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

The St. John’s Men’s Basketball program hasn’t advanced to the Big East Tournament Semifinals in 22 years, and for the better part of their tournament run, it looked like the drought was destined to end. The Red Storm blew out DePaul in the opening round Wednesday night — the largest margin of victory in a conference tournament game since 2010. Against No. 2 Villanova, the No. 7 St. John’s team was in control for 30 minutes, but let their lead slip to suffer a heartbreaking loss, 66-65, in the Big East Quarterfinals on Thursday, March 10.

St. John’s Bids To Host NIT Game At Carnesecca Arena, Goes Unselected In Consolation Tournament

The Torch reported on March 12, 2o22 that the St. John’s Athletic Department was preparing in advance of the NIT Selection Show, which was scheduled to air just after the NCAA Selection Show. The program had put in to host a first-round NIT game on Tuesday, March 15 at 6 or 7 p.m or Wednesday, March 16 at 6 or 7 p.m. at Carnesecca Arena.

Few teams declare their intent to host such games, and the St. John’s bid was likely a signal to the selection committee that the team would accept a tournament spot, if selected. In the prior season, the team declined entry to the NIT due to COVID-19 concerns and alleged internal turmoil within the program.

The NIT bracket slowly filled up, and St. John’s was nowhere to be found. The team was the highest-ranked program in the country to not appear in a postseason tournament, according to KenPom rankings. The program had high expectations all season, as the fans, media and coaches waited for the Johnnies to figure out their lingering issues. In the end, it never happened.

“If you watched the team, they just kind of rolled over the whole season,” Anderson said after the team’s Big East Tournament elimination. “You saw a team that probably could and should have been [in the] NCAA [Tournament.]”

 

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About the Contributors
Sara Kiernan
Sara Kiernan, Sports & Photo Editor
Sara is a senior journalism student serving as the Sports Editor & Photo Editor. She is minoring in government and politics and is a sister of Phi Sigma Sigma's epsilon omicron chapter. She has been able to take photos at some amazing places including the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden. If she is not taking photos on the court or writing, she has an iced coffee in hand with friends, walking around the city or watching any sports game that is on! LETS GO YANKEES!  Sara can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] 

Brady Snyder
Brady Snyder, Editor-in-Chief
Brady is a senior journalism student currently serving as Editor-in-Chief. He joined The Torch in 2021, and previously served as Sports Editor. Outside of The Torch, Brady covers consumer technology and new innovations for ScreenRant, where he has nearly 100 published articles. When he isn’t writing, Brady is usually running or catching a sporting event. Brady can be reached at [email protected]
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