St. John’s upset hopes evaporate vs. No. 8 Kansas at UBS Arena

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The building was waiting to explode all evening, through the slow start, through the defensive and rebounding lapses, through it all. 

Now, St. John’s finally had given their fans a reason to get loud. Only three points separated St. John’s from eighth-ranked Kansas. Julian Champagnie was unconscious, hitting five consecutive 3-pointers. Ten minutes and thirty-five seconds remaining. 

Mike Anderson went to his bench, sensing Champagnie needed a breather. By the time the junior star was back, the lead had grown to eight. Soon, it was 14, and St. John’s would fail to score from the field for a span of 7:55. 

Momentum gone. 

St. John’s upset hopes were gone that quick. Kansas would cruise from there in a 95-75 rout that ended the Johnnies hopes of a significant victory entering the conference season. 

The same issues that were apparent in underwhelming wins over low-major opponents — defensive rebounding, turnovers and scoring depth — were prevalent in this loss. Much like the defeat to Indiana, St. John’s dug a big early hole, rallied, but exerted too much energy in the comeback. 

St. John's
Posh Alexander finished with 16 points against Kansas.
Robert Sabo

It got pushed around inside, out-rebounded 49-27, and committed 17 turnovers. Kansas big man David McCormack out-rebounded newcomer Joel Soriano, 13-0. St. John’s got 56 points from the returning core of Champagnie, Posh Alexander and Dylan Addae-Wusu, and just 19 from everyone else. All factors contributed to the lopsided result. 

Following a concerning pattern, St. John’s started slow. It didn’t appear ready at the opening tip. It was down 13-2 by the first timeout and 21-8 just over eight minutes in. 

Eventually, the Johnnies got going, and were as close as five, after an Alexander three-point play. But they couldn’t sustain that 7-0 spurt. Agbaji got free for a pair of 3-pointers, and the lead was back into double figures. It stayed that way into halftime, Kansas taking a 43-30 edge into intermission. 

St. John's
Dylan Addae-Wusu shoots in the first half during St. John’s 95-75 loss to Kansas Friday.
Robert Sabo

Really, it could have been worse. Champagnie had just four points on three field goal attempts through 20 minutes, Kansas owned the glass, to the tune of a 21-10 advantage — it was up 11-0 in second-chance points — and St. John’s committed 12 turnovers, another early-season problem that isn’t going away. 

If not for Alexander, who had 10 points and two assists in the opening half, the game would’ve been out of reach by then. 

A different St. John’s team came out of the locker room. The Red Storm scored the first five points of the stanza. Champagnie hit his first five attempts from the field, all 3-pointers, and the Johnnies were within six after Addae-Wusu’s 3-pointer with 12:14 to go. It twice was within three. But then Champagnie came out, and Kansas took off. 

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