Madison Square Garden — Leading scorer Julian Champagnie did not play in Saturday’s game against Pitt at the “World Famous Arena” Garden due to a positive COVID-19 test. But it was next man’s up for the Johnnies.
Champagnie was a huge loss for St. John’s, in this his third season with the program, he is averaging 20.3 points per game along with 6.7 rebounds.
Jamarius Burton’s mid-range jumper with 0.4 seconds left helped Pittsburgh beat St. John’s 59-57 in the showcase game of the Gotham Classic Saturday.
The Panthers are now 6-1 all-time in the Classic with a 71-68 win over Colgate and a 56-52 lost to Monmouth in this season’s event.
The Johnnies (8-3) tied the contest with two Dylan Addae-Wusu free throws, Burton took the inbounds pass and raced down the hardwood before taking the game-winning shot below the left elbow.
“I came down with pace and I saw the ball screen,” Burton said. “I just found a spot. I looked at the shot clock and I found a spot that I liked. And I just raised and elevated.”
With the lost, St. John’s is 7-7 all-time against the Panthers at the “Mecca”. The Johnnies last win against Pittsburgh at the Garden was a 60-59 victory against then No.4 Pitt on Feb. 19, 2011, when Dwight Hardy hit a game winning layup with one second remaining.
Burton led Pitt with 20 points with 4 boards. Mouhamadou Gueye chipped in 15 along with 6 rebounds (4-7).
“This was a big time win for us,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “We’re really proud of our guys for fighting.”
The Johnnies took the L despite having three players in double-figures, St. John’s had its three-game winning streak snapped. Addae-Wusu led the Red Storm with 12 points. Posh Alexander chipped in 11, and Joel Sorano scored 10.
“It’s a tough, tough game for us,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson sa
id. “It comes down to making plays at the end.”
Pitt’s past four contests have been decided by five points or fewer and by a combined nine points overall. The Panthers are now 3-3 on the season in games decided by five points or fewer.
Pitt are 33-18 at Madison Square Garden since the 2000-01 season, taking the Big East Championship titles in 2003 and 2008.
The Panthers took its first lead since early in the first half on Burton’s long corner trey with 11:55 left in the second. The lead was short lived, Soriano hit a jump hook to put the Johnnies back up 45-44.
After Alexander drained a jumper with nine minutes left in the game, both teams went cold for over three minutes. John Hugley ended the drought with a short jump hook which helped Pittsburgh trim the lead to two points, 50-48.
“Just not making the plays,” said Anderson, when asked why the Johnnies were not able to extend the leads. “That’s all.”
After Hugley’s hook shot, Pitt outscored St. John’s 8-5 to take a 56-55 advantage. Burton’s two free throws with two minutes left in the contest gave Pittsburgh the lead.
Alexander had an chance to give the Red Storm the lead, but Hugley blocked his mid range jumper. Pittsburgh extended the lead to three points on William Jeffress free throw, but Addae-Wusu’s two made free throws set the theatrics for Burton’s game-winner.
“I work on the mid-range shots a lot,” Burton said. “I had that confidence going into the play.”
The Johnnies led 34-31 at the break. The Red Storm had a 23-13 lead with 10 minutes left in the half, but the Panthers ended the opening 20 minutes by outscoring St. John’s 18-11.
In the second half, Pittsburgh contested every shot that went up and put bodies on bodies when the ball touched the cylinder.
With the win, Pittsburgh improved to 25-35 in 60 meetings between the programs. Pitt has won four straight meetings, the last occurring on Feb. 24, 2013.
Pitt: Hosts Jacksonville Tuesday.
St. John’s: Hosts Butler Thursday.