Tareq Coburn’s big night leads St. John’s to home finale win over Xavier

St. John's men's basketball

If Wednesday was the final game that Tareq Coburn and Julian Champagnie played at Carnesseca Arena, then the two went out with a bang in the St. John’s Red Storm’s 81-66 win over the Xavier Musketeers.

Coburn and Champagnie combined for 39 points and St. John’s withstood an early second-half rally from Xavier to pick up the win in their regular-season home finale. St. John’s finishes the 2021-22 season with a 12-8 record at Madison Square Garden and Carnesseca Arena. 

Coburn shot 5-of-7 from beyond the arc on a night that he set a new personal season-high and he appeared in the starting lineup for the first at St. John’s.  Posh  Alexander had 17 points in the win, Aaron Wheeler contributed 11 points and shot 60% from three-point range and Joel Soriano went 5-of-7 for 10 points. 

“From the beginning had to start off right,” said Coburn, who had about 20 friends and family in the stands along with another 20 classmates on hand to see him play on Wednesday. “Last game home and I’m never going to play again, never going to play a college game again at home, so had to make this one count. Trusted my teammates. Coach had ultimate confidence in me and I just played.” 

Coburn put up 11 of his 20 points in the second half and hit back-to-back threes in the opening minutes of the second half to boost the Johnnies’ lead. However, it was after head coach Mike Anderson opted to rest Coburn in the middle of the half that the Musketeers chipped away at St. John’s lead and eventually pulled within three with 8:37 left to play. 

St. John’s managed to stabilize things quickly after that when Alexander drew a foul and put his team up by five after a pair of free throws and Coburn knocked down a three with 7:55 to play. 

The lead grew even more moments later when Champagnie put up eight straight points to extend the lead to 15 and throw Carnesseca Arena into a tizzy. The crowd roared when Champagnie hit a jump shot then stole the ball right after and scored on the fastbreak layup.

“I feel pretty good about it,” Champagnie said when asked his thoughts on how he performed in what could be his final game in Queens. “It was more about getting a W today and being there for my teammates and not forcing things. Going out there and just having fun playing, If it’s my last game then I feel pretty good about it and I’m glad we won, that was my ultimate goal. 

“If we lost I would have been very upset right now.” 

Anderson was quick to point out the contributions from Alexander on Wednesday as well. In addition to his 17 points, Alexander had eight assists and seven rebounds. 

“Oh I thought he set the stage,” Anderson said. “I just think the energy he brings he sets the stage for this basketball team. He’s reves the engine and tonight it’s their time.” 

The first half wasn’t pretty on Wednesday night and it was the only time the Jonnies ever trailed in the game. Neither team shot above 40% in the opening half and St. John’s and Xavier combined for 11-of-31 layups through the first 20 minutes. 

Xavier took their only lead less than a minute into the game when they jumped ahead 2-0. Coburn hit a three-pointer to put the Red Storm up 3-2 and then Smith quickly followed it up with a layup seconds later. 

St. John’s opened up an 11-5 lead by the 15:53 mark after Alexander made a layup of his own, but both teams would go the next 3:41 without making a basket. A pair of free throws by Xavier’s Jack Nunge pulled the Musketeers within one and later in the period a Zach Freemantle three tied the game at 24 with 4:26 left on the clock. 

However, St. John’s finished the half on a 9-5 run by three-pointers from Coburn and Aaron Wheeler.