For once, St. John’s isn’t facing a ranked opponent - or Georgetown. The Big East’s all-day marathon falls on Martin Luther King Day, and the Red Storm will host the DePaul Blue Demons in their final matchup of the season (most likely).
But with the confidence that comes from facing a team at home that the Red Storm have already beaten in come-from-behind fashion, can St. John’s snag win number three in Big East play? Or will the length and defense of the Blue Demons bother St. John’s for long enough that the visiting squad from Chicago gets the road win?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (8-11, 2-4 Big East) vs DePaul Blue Demons (8-10, 1-4 Big East)
What: Big East Conference game, part of annual FS1 marathon
Where: Carnesecca Arena
When: Monday, January 16, 4:30 PM
TV: FS1 + FOX Sports Go
Audio: WNYM OR Tune In Radio
Tickets: Seats still available.
Last Meeting: St. John’s won 79-73 on New Year’s day.
St. John’s beat DePaul just over two weeks ago, but it was no comfortable win.
St. John’s found themselves down by as much as 12 in the first half, combining poor turnovers with an inability to draw fouls or hit threes on the DePaul defense, which packs the paint against opponents.
DePaul is much the same - a team that invites outside scoring, a team that wants to get points on hard drives to the basket, an undersized team that wants to force turnovers. They can be wild, but they can also create chaos for teams that lunge and reach for steals.
St. John’s will once again be vulnerable if the home squad can’t hit outside shots. DePaul has enough perimeter scoring to make it a game; and taking the contest with anything but the most seriousness could earn St. John’s a tough afternoon.
Still, the Blue Demons have the worst offense and the worst defense in Big East play. Dave Leitao’s team slows the game down and restricts transition opportunities. The Demons have struggled inside the arc, with a walk-on and the two freshman big men providing the size. The three include Al Eichelberger, who did not play, walk-on Joe Hanel, who fouled out, and Levi Cooke, who had some solid minutes.
Eli Cain, one of the Blue Demon scoring stars, has struggled in five league games, shooting 32% inside the arc and 26% outside. Billy Garrett, Jr. and Tre’Darius McCallum, however, both shoot 37% from outside the arc in league play.
Chris Harrison-Docks surprised St. John’s with 12 points off the bench; he did not play in the last DePaul game and scored three points total in the other two games the Demons have played. Slashing guards Devin Gage, Brandon Cyrus and Darrick Wood could be in the mix if DePaul is trying to find answers; meanwhile, guard Erten Gazi is a low-usage player who can defend and pass.
Blue Demons to watch
Eli Cain. Cain can score in bunches. St. John’s cannot let him get many chances to get untracked - he can be explosive. In fact, he as the leading scorer for DePaul against St. John’s with 18.
Tre’Daruis McCallum. McCallum is the closet thing the Demons have to a true forward. He can score inside and out. And, despite being listed at Kassoum Yakwe’s height and size, McCallum is a more active participant on the glass.
Billy Garrett. The four-year senior is an effective slasher, a good passer, and has some clutch shots in his repertoire - he can be hard to handle.
Keys to the contest
Hit from outside. Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett combined to hit 4/12 from outside the arc; but Bashir Ahmed nailed 4/6 from outside the arc. The Red Storm need a player or two to shoot efficiently from distance - pulling the DePaul defense out and playing to the Red Storm strength.
Engaged and attentive. It’s been easy for St. John’s to look past opponents because of their reputation. But a team that’s 3 game sunder .500 does not have that luxury. The team needs to come out with energy, as does the crowd.
Supporting cast help. In the last game, Malik Ellison doled out eight assists and added six rebounds - and only scored seven. He made winning plays. Darien Williams added 12. St. John’s needs some new faces to step up and add scoring, defense and cohesion to the duo of Ponds and LoVett.
St. John’s finds early struggles but takes out frustrations on DePaul, who wilt on the road.
Rumble Prediction: 82-66, St. John’s
KenPom Prediction: 80-71, St. John’s