PREVIEW: Marquette heads to New York for matchup with St. John’s

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Senior forward Jamal Cain (23) attempts a fadeaway over Creighton junior forward Christian Bishop (13) (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

The Marquette Golden Eagles will hit the road on Saturday for a late morning battle with the St. John’s Red Storm at 11 a.m. Central Standard Time.

Marquette enters the matchup 7-6 after a win at home against the Providence Friars. While they lost three straight games to end 2020, the Golden Eagles have won two of their last three to begin the new year.

The Red Storm also sit at 7-6 and prevented a three-game losing streak with a win against Butler on Tuesday. Sophomore guard/forward Julian Champagnie led the way with 18 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Champagnie has served as a leader for the Red Storm thus far, averaging a BIG EAST-leading 20.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 11 games played. He has been doing so at an efficient rate, shooting 47% from the field, 41% from three and 90% from the free throw line.

In addition to Champagnie, junior guard Greg Williams Jr. and junior guard/forward Vince Cole also hold scoring averages in double digits. In part to their scoring efforts, SJ ranks as the third highest scoring team in the BIG EAST at 79.6 points per game.

While Marquette has had to make adjustments following the loss of Markus Howard, St. John’s has had to make changes to fill the void left by guard/forward LJ Figueroa as well, who transferred to Oregon for his senior season. Figueroa was the Red Storm’s leading scorer in his junior season at 14.5 points per game, and he also led the conference in steals with 1.9 per game.

The Golden Eagles have still been relying on a balanced offensive attack, but the younger players in the program have been stepping up lately in conference play. First-year forward Dawson Garcia is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 13.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Garcia led the charge for MU against Providence and had a game-high 20 points to go along with six rebounds.

Fellow first-year forward Justin Lewis also made vital plays down the stretch against the Friars, which included a block, putback dunk and clutch 3-pointer to prevent Marquette from blowing their lead. Lewis has been a crucial piece in the puzzle that is head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s game plan, as he enters Saturday averaging 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds.

The Golden Eagles have also been anchored by their veterans. Redshirt senior guard Koby McEwen, senior forward Jamal Cain and senior forward Theo John have all made positive strides this season in increased roles following the departure of Howard.

With that being said, John will be a player to watch against St. John’s after being shutdown last season by the Red Storm. The 6-foot-9 big man from Minneapolis scored just one point in two games against SJ in the 2019-2020 campaign.

This game will mark the 38th matchup all-time between these two teams. Marquette is 22-15 against the Red Storm and has split the last 10 games with SJ, going 5-5. Carnesecca Arena has proven to be a tough venue for MU, with their last win in Queens coming back in 2016. St. John’s has gone 6-1 at home this year, with their only loss coming against No. 9 Creighton.

Both teams will square off with the hopes to tally back-to-back wins and secure their eighth win of the season. The game will be telecasted on FS1.

This story was written by Nick Galle. He can be reached at nicholas.galle@marquette.edu or on Twitter @thenickgalle