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St. John’s can’t sustain fast start in dismal loss to No. 16 Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The lead was seven. The Dunkin’ Donuts Center was quiet. Everything was going St. John’s way.

A big win seemed possible.

Then it didn’t. Providence woke up. St. John’s failed to respond.

By the final media timeout, the result wasn’t even in doubt. The Red Storm had their doors blown off over the final 15 minutes, unable to get stops, unable to get quality shots, unable to do much of anything in a dismal 83-73 loss to the 16th-ranked Friars.

St. John’s (9-4) fell to 1-1 in the Big East following Wednesday’s win over DePaul and is now 1-4 against power-conference foes. Following his standout, 34-point outburst on Wednesday, Julian Champagnie couldn’t find it, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts. After scoring 12 first-half points, Posh Alexander finished with just 14. As a team, the Red Storm shot 5-of-22 from 3-point range and were just 8-of-16 from the free throw line, attempting 14 fewer at the charity stripe than far more aggressive Providence.

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Nate Watson owned the second half, finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds, and Jared Bynum added 18 off the bench for Providence (14-2, 4-1).

St. John’s Aaron Wheeler (1) blocks a shot by Providence’s Ed Croswell (5) as Julian Champagnie (2) helps defend on the play.

The first half was all about the other guys. The two stars, Champagnie and Watson, scored just four points apiece. Watson was limited to nine impactless minutes due to foul trouble. Champagnie made just two of eight shots from the field.

Despite his struggles, St. John’s took a three-point lead into the break. Alexander was the best player on the floor, scoring 12 points and creating havoc at both ends. Wheeler enjoyed his best half as a Johnnie, producing seven points and four rebounds. Providence was only that close because of its ability to get to the free throw line, making 12 of 15 attempts.

St. John’s came out for the second half strong, quickly pushing its lead to a game-high seven on two consecutive baskets from Champagnie. It never got larger. Instead, Providence ripped off a 12-2 run to take the lead it wouldn’t relinquish, as Watson began to go to work and the Friars became the more physical team. They went up five, after two Bynum free throws with 8:07 left, and never looked back.

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