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St. John’s wins a squeaker over DePaul, 77-76

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Let’s not talk about the style points here.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at DePaul Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

It was close, but St. John’s won a second Big East road game, 77-76 over DePaul, to improve to 14-13, 3-11 in Big East play.

A win is a win, and and ugly win ain’t a sin. Shamorie Ponds went for 26 points to lead the Red Storn in a game where a lackluster crowd, turnovers and DePaul’s size were factors.

Despite St. John’s three high-profile wins and DePaul’s big win over Providence, tonight we saw two teams that look like they deserve the bottom of the Big East standings, in what seemed like an almost-empty Wintrust Arena.

The start was torpid, with the Johnnies unable to hit open shots, unable to drive against the Blue Demons’ packed in defense and length, and they were unable to keep from turning over the ball.

Or disrupt DePaul. Despite eight turnovers, the Demons assisted on 85% of their shots (12 assists on 14 made shots).

The Demons led by one at the end of the first half, having grabbed eight offensive rebounds and taken five more shots. Eli Cain started off hot, but the Johnnies caught up with some transition offense and five points from Bryan Trimble, Jr.

Shamorie Ponds was good in the first half, with 14 points (Justin Simon added 10 to keep pace).

The second half defense in the paint was, with Tariq Owens struggling with foul trouble, ghostly. Marin Maric scored 15 points in the second half, after going scoreless in the first half. DePaul had 16 offensive rebounds in the game (41% of their own misses).

The two teams went back and forth for the last 12 minutes of the game, each trying to find some rhythm.

Tonight, Marvin Clark II (24 points) carried the team through the second half, pouring in 19 points once his outside jumper was falling. The Johnnies rallied to torch the nets to catch up to the Blue Demons, who enjoyed a lead of at least seven. Clark shot 4/5 on threes, and 2/3 inside the arc, while Justin Simon also went 2/2 from deep.

Ponds had 12 in the second half.

The Red Storm did enough to win, stifling their three-point attempts in the second half, while only turning the ball over twice (to DePaul’s seven turnovers)

At the end St. John’s held DePaul to two points over most of the final two minutes before a last-second Max Strus three cut the deficit to one as time expired. Chris Mullin’s team clutched to a skinny lead in Chicago to continue a four-game winning streak — and to finally, finally, get over .500 for the first time since January 20th.

Justin Simon finished with 16 points. Shamorie Ponds had 10 assists and five turnovers. Tariq Owens had six rebounds, two blocks and three points.

DePaul had five in double figures: Eli Cain with 19, Maric’s 15, Strus’ 14 and Brandon Cyrus, who added ten. Eli Cain had 11 assists.

Next up for St. John’s is a needed weeklong break, until they travel back to the Midwest to face Marquette once more next Wednesday at 8:30