Searching for their second conference victory and an opportunity to sweep DePaul, St. John's went to Allstate Arena and were blown out by the Blue Demons, 83 to 75, on Thursday night.
The Johnnies were led by Ron Mvouika (20 points on 7-of-15 shooting), who had one of the best games of his St. John's career, while Malik Ellison and Durand Johnson combined to score 27 points. Kassoum Yakwe (six points and one block) and Yankuba Sima (eight points and one block) struggled to defend the interior after having a perfect performance versus Seton Hall Sunday and Felix Balamou added two points.
Once again, Federico Mussini (zero points on 0-of-5 shooting) played limited minutes and had issues knocking down shots from long range. Christian Jones put up 10 points and four rebounds.
Despite shooting 40 percent from the field, the Red Storm did not play well, especially on the defensive end of the floor. They let the Blue Demons knock down 53 percent from their shots, grab seven offensive rebounds and make five threes. The Johnnies had 14 turnovers, but the killer was the missed free throws and the inability to alter shots consistently at the rim.
The road team shot just 63 percent from the free throw line and blocked just two shots. While the Johnnies have had issues with free throws all year, the lack of paint presence is alarming.
The Red Storm received six early points from Johnson in the first half, but when the graduate transfer picked up his second foul with 13:28 remaining before the break, everything started to collapse. Chris Mullin's unit was unable to defend the paint successfully, their offense lacked rhythm and ball movement, and their energy was no where to be found. It clearly looked like the close, devastating loss to Seton Hall earlier this week was effecting their mindset.
The Johnnies turned the ball over nine times, grabbed just nine rebounds to DePaul's 19 and let the home team shoot 66 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. Their defense as a whole was poor as DePaul was blowing by the Johnnies' perimeter defenders while making plays at the rim during their 14-4 run over the course of six minutes. They broke open a 10-point lead as Eli Cain (who scored a total of 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting) and Rashaun Stimage (nine total points and six rebounds) were the two best players on the floor.
In the second frame, the Red Storm played with renewed energy and toughness but every time they looked to make a push, the Blue Demons responded.
The Johnnies found their touch from downtown (making 10 total threes) and were able to get out in transition with Mvouika making some strong outlet passes. They even cut the lead down to six with less than a minute remaining, but the Blue Demons knocked down their free-bees in the final minutes and their consistency on the both ends of the floor was important.
Billy Garrett Jr., who has dealt with an ankle injury of late, finished with 19 points and 10 assists for the Blue Demons while Myke Henry and Tommy Hamilton IV combined to score 27 points.
The Johnnies (8-21, 1-15) will now travel to Creighton, one of the toughest places to play in the Big East, as they try to earn another victory before hosting reeling Providence in the final game of the regular season. The Blue Jays beat the Johnnies at Carnesecca Arena on New Year's Eve behind the likes of Cole Huff and Maurice Watson Jr.