St. John’s narrowly avoids gigantic Rider letdown

The best thing about this performance is it’s over. It can be forgotten. It didn’t result in an ugly loss.

St. John’s can turn the page. It can shift its attention to Friday’s Big East opener at Seton Hall because this was not 40 minutes of basketball Mike Anderson will look back at fondly.

Against heavy-underdog Rider playing just its second game, the Johnnies toyed with the worst loss of the Anderson era, before rallying for an 82-79 victory at Carnesecca Arena in Queens.

Vince Cole was the hero, scoring a career-high 26 points and keying a game-closing run 18-9 with 12 points. Marcellus Earlington had his best game of the early season, notching 16 points and eight rebounds, and Julian Champagnie produced his second double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Cole gave the Red Storm the lead for good with five straight points with 2:20 left and iced it with a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to four with 29.2 seconds to go.

It somewhat overshadowed a shaky effort in which St. John’s let Rider hit 11 3-pointers and shoot 49 percent from the field. The Johnnies forced only 13 turnovers and were frequently beaten off the dribble.

Early on, it looked like a blowout. St. John’s ran out to a 9-2 lead, then led 11-5. From there, though, the Johnnies fell asleep. They missed eight 3-pointers in a row.

Anderson went deep into his bench for a stretch of 3:49 in which Rider outscored St. John’s by six. The deficit was two at halftime and it quickly was extended to 11, just 3:43 into the second half. Greg Williams Jr. and Isaih Moore each pick up their third foul.

Eventually, the Broncs went cold and St. John’s started attacking, hitting eight consecutive shots and went ahead by one on a Champagnie dunk that capped a 13-4 run with 10:15 left.

But the Red Storm couldn’t sustain momentum and Rider answered with a 7-0 spurt. When St. John’s got back within one, the Broncs again responded, going back up six before the Johnnies’ big run to close it out. 


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