No. 16 Providence faces resurgent Julian Champagnie, St. John’s
Julian Champagnie spent a few days quarantining with COVID-19, and as soon as he could enter a gym, he poured himself into working out.
It showed in a career night against DePaul on Wednesday, and Champagnie will seek a strong follow-up Saturday afternoon when he leads St. John’s into a visit to 16th-ranked Providence, which is coming off its worst game of the season.
The Red Storm (9-3, 1-0 Big East) are seeking their first 2-0 start in conference play since 2016-17 after getting an 89-84 win over DePaul in their delayed conference opener on Wednesday. It was their first game since a two-point loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 18, when Champagnie first tested positive for COVID.
In his first action since Dec. 12, Champagnie produced 34 points and 16 rebounds. He shot 12-of-22 from the field, hit four 3-pointers and surpassed his previous career high of 33 points in his 14th career double-double.
“I jumped right into workouts my first day out. I was in the gym for four hours,” Champagnie said. “Getting in the gym, getting my rhythm back, my shot back is what helped me push forward. Also, my teammates, none of this is possible without them believing in me. Those were the two main factors in my performance.”
Champagnie had help as Dylan Addae-Wusu contributed a career-high 17 points and Posh Alexander chipped in 16 after St. John’s saw Big East games against Seton Hall, Butler, Marquette and Georgetown postponed.
“I thought, tonight, they rose to the occasion,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “There’s a lot that has been thrown at this team.”
St. John’s shot 47.8 percent Wednesday and hopes its second game against a ranked team goes better than its 20-point loss to then-No. 8 Kansas on Dec. 3.
Providence (13-2, 3-1) is ranked for the third straight week after last being ranked in February 2016 but endured a humbling loss at Marquette on Tuesday. After averaging 69.5 points and holding opponents to an average of 59.1 points during an eight-game winning streak, the Friars fell flat by shooting 32.8 percent in an 88-56 loss.
It was Providence’s second-lowest field-goal percentage of the season behind a 23.5 percent showing in an 18-point defeat to Virginia on Nov. 23. The Friars committed 14 turnovers and allowed 52.5 percent shooting, marking the first time an opponent shot at least 50 percent against them.
“They really took it to us. You know I mean definitely took us to the woodshed,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “We just didn’t have it tonight for whatever reason.”
Cooley is seeking his 300th career win and hopes for more efficient showings from his top scorers and a better showing from a defense that has held opponents under 40 percent from the field in eight games this season.
Leading scorer Nate Watson was held to eight points and is shooting 35.2 percent (19-of-54) in five games since getting a season-high 24 points Dec. 7 against Vermont. Al Durham led the Friars with 16 points but was 3-of-12 from the field.
Cooley also hopes to get A.J. Reeves back from a wrist injury. Reeves, whose 10.7 points are third on the team, did not play due to a finger injury after being limited to nine minutes in Providence’s 17-point win at DePaul on Jan. 1.
St. John’s has won the past three meetings, including 92-81 in Providence on Feb. 6 when it shot 58.6 percent.
–Field Level Media