St. John’s isn’t looking back at what ifs with Big East Tournament looming

St. John's Big East
St. John’s Red Storm forward Julian Champagnie listens during a timeout in the first half against the Xavier Musketeers at Carnesecca Arena.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t ask the St. John’s men’s basketball team about any what-ifs. Their focus is ahead of them and not looking back at what could have happened this season. 

Their 16-13 record and 8-11 mark in Big East play are far from what the Johnnies had been expecting this year when they hit the hardwood, but with just one game remaining in the regular season, their eyes have turned to next week’s conference tournament at Madison Square Garden

“There’s no time to look back, so what could have been is what could have been and what’s now is what’s now,” Julian Champagnie said after Wednesday’s home finale win over Xavier. “All we can control now is going to Marquette and trying to stay in the win column. The season definitely would have turned out differently if we played like this every night, but as far as the games we lost we had some mental lapses down the stretch. It’s not on the transfers. As a whole team, you have to lock in and make those last little plays. 

“That’s what it comes down to. Four or five little plays down the stretch.”

Wednesday’s win was one that came from an effort that hasn’t come for St. John’s much this season. Champagnie and Posh Alexander have often had to carry the bulk of the workload, but the Johnnies received a much more balanced offensive effort in the home finale at Carnessecca Arena. 

St. John’s had five different players in double-digit scoring, including Aaron Wheeler’s 11 off the bench and Joel Soriano’s 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Tareq Coburn had a monster night putting up 20 points in his first start of the year for the Johnnies. 

They’ll face Marquette on Saturday to close out the regular season and then return to New York for the Big East Tournament next week. The win over Xavier didn’t reaffirm the team’s own belief in itself going into the tournament, but it was a good feeling with the big stage looming. 

“It’s not about reaffirming. Whether we lose every game of the season, we’re going to the Garden to win the whole thing,” Coburn said. “Going to the tournament, it’s no difference. I don’t know about reassuring or anything like that, but it’s definitely a good feeling to get back in the W column.”

The tournament will take on major significance for St. John’s with it being their only way to punch their ticket to the NCAA  tournament later in the month. The win on Wednesday locked up the seventh seed in the Big East

Asked after the game if the win was reassuring for their league championship aspirations, Mike Anderson said “that’s the goal.”

“We’re putting it together hopefully at the right time,” he said. “Just gotta continue to work. We were whole for a change. It’s been pretty interesting this year, but at the same time, our guys continue to fight and compete each and every night. Came up short, but tonight I thought we finished the game off the right way. Making the right play, making free throws down the stretch, getting stops when we needed to.” 

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