This game just might be the one, St. John's won't get a better opportunity to snap the losing streak - facing the ninth-place team in the league, a team with only one more win on the season, and playing in the cozy confines of Carnesecca Arena.
The DePaul Blue Demons visit Queens for a battle of the Big East's bottom two. Both teams have flashed favorable signs this season. DePaul recently topped Providence at home, 77-70, on February 2nd, owning the glass and riding their two scorers to victory.
St. John's has played Xavier, Villanova, and Indiana tight and even beat Syracuse. But the Johnnies need another win to keep hopes alive, to keep the players and fans engaged. At this point, a match-up like this is not for seeding or the postseason, it's mainly for getting everyone experience. Both St. John's and DePaul are looking ahead to next year,and this match-up allows players to play valuable minutes and further their games.
Who: St. John's Red Storm (7-19) vs DePaul Blue Demons (8-16)
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
When: Wednesday, February 17th, 8:00 PM
TV: CBS Sports Network; You can check what channel that is on your TV by clicking here
Audio: 670 AM
Tickets: Plenty of seats are available and can be purchased here
Ticket Note: St. John's is holding a pre-game rally at Taffner Field House. It is also Bill Wennington Bobblehead night at Carnesecca Arena.
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates.
Last Meeting: Last season St. John's pulled away late and beat DePaul 86-78 at home.
Fun Fact: DePaul's mascot is nicknamed DIBS which stands for Demon in Blue Suit.
Scouting the Blue Demons
DePaul is currently rebuilding their basketball program, which they have seemingly been doing since joining the Big East. (To be fair, so has St. John's.)
Over the offseason coaching veteran Oliver Purnell resigned, setting up a DePaul reunion for former Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao. Head coach Dave Leitao has been around college basketball as an assistant to Jim Calhoun at UConn and in the professional ranks, and has returned revive the DePaul program. He coached the Blue Demons from 2002-2005 (just before they moved to the Big East), reaching the NCAA Second Round back in 2004. Much like what Mullin is doing at St. John's, Leitao is setting the stage for a brighter future at DePaul.
Senior forward Myke Henry is the heartbeat of this year's DePaul team. Currently, Henry is averaging about 15 points and 7 rebounds per game. He has increased his averages during Big East play, scoring about 16 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Henry leads the DePaul offense which is at its best when scoring in the paint, though Henry is a strong jump shooter with range out to the three-point line (he's 10/25 in Big East play from beyond the arc).
Another key player St. John's must keep an eye on is junior Billy Garrett Jr. This talented guard entered this season will tons of momentum as he is a former Big East Rookie of the Year. Garrett is averaging 13 points per game with 3.6 assists as the team's lead guard, while scoring a ton from the free-throw line. He uses a crafty hesitation dribble and strength to get free opportunities. He leads DePaul in free-throw attempts and converts on about 84% of his free-throws.
DePaul, much like St. John's, turns the ball over a great deal. They average about 15 turnovers per game, the same as St. John's; but St. John's has improved in conference play, while DePaul has continued to struggle. Their defense allows guards decent looks on drives and from outside the arc.
One advatange for Leitao's Blue Demons is that they have slowed the pace from Oliver Purnell's days and can beat teams by out-working them down low with energetic big man Peter Ryckbosh and talented inside-out threat Tommy Hamilton IV. The Blue Demons will look to get the ball down low on offense, and block opposing teams shots. Rashaun Stimage is DePaul's leading shot blocker, swatting away about 1 shot per game.
How to beat DePaul
Smart, packed in defense: Last time out against Villanova, the Johnnies played defense at a high level. They held the Wildcats to 38% from the field and 21% from behind the arc. DePaul is not an offensive juggernaut, and can't shoot like Villanova; the Blue Demons often struggle to score the ball and fall back on their jump shots. St. John's needs to stay active up top and eliminate easy outside looks for their best outside threat Aaron Simpson, while having guys like Sima and Yakwe have secure the paint.
Scoring off of turnovers: DePaul has a turnover problem, averaging 15 turnovers per game. The teams that were most successful against DePaul scored off the Blue Demons turnovers. St. John's has done a nice job all season creating turnovers and coming away with steals. If St. John's can turn a majority of DePaul's giveaways into transition points, they can snap the losing streak.
Limit fouls: St. John's recently has let opponents get to the line often. DePaul as a team isn't great at getting to the line and converting, but this has still been a problem for St. John's. The Johnnies have allowed opponents to shoot about 24 free-throws per contest. That number must be trimmed - with a packed in defense and avoiding silly reach-in fouls - if St. John's is going to win.
Attack the basket: Just like St. John's, DePaul allows teams to get to the free-throw line often. DePaul has allowed opponents to shoot roughly 25 free-throws per contest. St. John's must figure out a strategy that forces DePaul to give them easy chances at the free-throw. Another note is St. John's needs to knock down those shots when they have the opportunity. So far this season St. John's is shooting a lackluster 65% from the charity stripe.
After witnessing the fantastic effort St. John's put forth against Villanova, Johnnies supporters should be very optimistic.
Expect St. John's to jump out of the gate hot, playing loose and ready to snap the losing streak. DePaul doesn't play like a rebuilding team as we learned when they knocked off Providence, but the Johnnies will hold them off. St. John's could grab their first conference win since March 4th, 2015.
Final Prediction: 70-66 St. John's
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