St. John’s looks to stay game-ready in matchup vs. Utah Valley

NCAA Men's Basketball

St. John’s is coming off its best win of the season and did not want to go more than a week without another game, so it reached out to various schools in search of a non-conference opponent.

The Red Storm found a willing opponent and will host Utah Valley State on Saturday afternoon in their final non-conference game of the season in Queens, N.Y.

St. John’s (8-7, 3-6 Big East) has won two of its last three games following a 1-5 slide to start conference play but without a game this weekend, its next game would have been Wednesday against DePaul, over a week since a 74-70 win at Connecticut on Monday afternoon.

St. John’s enters its first meeting with Utah Valley after getting its first win at Connecticut since 2000. The Red Storm picked up their last win by rallying from 14 points down in the first half and an eight-point deficit in the second half.

“We needed a win, period,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought we just needed to play a complete 40 minutes.”

St. John’s picked up its most impressive win to date while placing five in double figures. Posh Alexander tied a season high with 18 points while adding six assists, three steals and four rebounds, and did so after missing practice Sunday.

“For him to come out and have that kind of performance, it says a lot about him,” Anderson said of Alexander.

Julian Champagnie, the Big East’s top scorer, was held to 12 points but hit seven free throws and hit the game-clinching basket in the final seconds. He has reached double figures in each of his 13 games this season.

St. John’s enters Saturday as the Big East’s worst scoring defense (77.9 points) but has held opponents to 57, 73 and 70 points its last three games since a 97-79 loss at Creighton two weeks ago.

Utah Valley (5-5, 3-0 WAC) is among the better offenses in the Western Athletic Conference by averaging 77.8 points on 48.5-percent shooting. The Wolverines boast the league’s top scorer in Jamison Overton (18.9 points) and top rebounder in Fardaws Aimaq (15.1 rebounds), who also leads the nation in rebounding and averages 17.5 points per game.

Utah Valley is making the roughly 2,200-mile trip for its first game since a 93-92 overtime win at Seattle University on Jan. 15 that extended its winning streak to three games.

Trey Woodbury, a 45-percent 3-point shooter, hit the game-winning three-pointer with less than six seconds left in overtime on a night when the Wolverines shot 52.6 percent and overcame 22 turnovers.

“We had too many turnovers, but we will get better,” Utah Valley coach Mark Madsen said after watching Aimaq total 29 points and 14 rebounds.

Saturday is Utah Valley’s second game against a current Big East team. The other was a 66-55 loss at Marquette on Nov. 12, 2007.

–Field Level Media

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