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Three takeaways: Winning ugly, full-cast scoring, and Storm shooting surge

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Praise of the supporting cast, shooting improves from deep

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

St. John’s earned an ugly win in a grinder of a game. In a game marred with foul trouble by the Red Storm, poor rebounding and at-times questionable shot selection, the Red Storm still found a way to leave Chicago with a win.

And now? St. John’s is 14-13 on the season, 3-11 in Big East play.

St. John’s at DePaul started with sloppy offensive play by the Red Storm. DePaul got out to a 12-3 lead over the first 5 minutes, but St. John’s was able to force 4 turnovers and settle into the half-court offense to tie the ballgame back up.

Quick recap

(For those who didn’t yet read the game recap)

DePaul was able to keep Ponds contained for stretches of the first half, and Simon took advantage with 10 points of his own off 4/8 shooting and two assists. When foul trouble forced Simon out of the game, Ponds was able to pick up the slack and finish the first half with 14 points off 5/8 from the floor and 3/5 from 3-point range and three assists.

DePaul went into the half up 38-37 in large part due to eight offensive rebounds and 12 assists. DePaul guard Eli Cain led the Blue Demons in the first half with 13 points, off 4/9 from the field and 3/5 from 3PT plus seven assists.

With Owens being forced to the bench for large stretches of the second half, DePaul’s center Marin Maric was able to get uncontested looks at the rim, sparking much of the offense for the Blue Demons in the second half. Maric’s play, paired with Cain’s streaky contributions, powered the DePaul offense enough to keep the Blue Demons in striking distance for most of the second half.

When Coach Mullin brought Owens back into the game, Owens was able to score his first points of the game on a thunderous dunk with just under 50 seconds remaining to give the Red Storm a 4 point lead. After a Maric layup, St. John’s Clark and Owens made a free throw each, and DePaul’s Max Strus hit a deep three with three seconds remaining for St. John’s to win 77-76.

St. John’s Red Storm

Shamorie Ponds: 26 Points (10-18 FG, 4-8 3PT), 5 Rebounds, 10 Assists

Marvin Clark II: 24 Points (8-15 FG, 5-9 3PT), 5 Rebounds, 1 Assist

Justin Simon: 16 Points (6-11 FG, 2-2 3PT), 3 Rebounds, 3 Assists

DePaul Blue Demons

Eli Cain: 19 Points (6-12 FG, 3-6 3PT), 1 Rebound, 11 Assists

Marin Maric: 15 Points (6-10 FG, 0-1 3PT), 9 Rebonds, 1 Assist

Three Takeaways

St. John’s can win the ugly games: The wins over Duke, Villanova, and Marquette were far from flawless. However, the Red Storm looked good in their wins over Duke and Villanova, and the win over Marquette looked almost routine.

Last night against DePaul was anything but routine, with Coach Mullin and the Red Storm having to overcome the foul trouble and DePaul’s activity on the boards.

Those in foul trouble had to play without fouling down the stretch, and they did. Points were going to need to come off turnovers, and the Red Storm forced DePaul to turn the ball over 15 times. Finally, St. John’s was going to have to take good shots in the half-court, which they did when it mattered.

A whole crew of secondary scorers: Shamorie Ponds has been marvelous, particularly in this 4 game stretch, but who could pick up the slack on a Ponds off night was still in question. The game at DePaul showed that the Red Storm has a whole crew of athletes who can play “Robin” to Ponds’s “Batman.”

In the first half, when Ponds was not able to get into the paint with his usual ease, Simon quietly was able to shoulder the offensive scoring load. In the second half, the good looks Clark had taken all game started to turn into points. When it came time to get a 4 point lead with under a minute left, there was Owens throwing down a dunk. After the injury to Lovett, the rest of the Red Storm roster has found a way to make meaningful contributions, especially on the offensive end.

The 3 point shot needs to be a big weapon going forward: St. John’s was 12/24 from deep against DePaul, improving the Red Storm to 103/309 (33%) from 3 on the season. With Ponds’s ability to get into the paint, Clark, Simon, and Ahmed have been able to consistently knock down shots off of the catch, and Owens and Trimble have taken good looking shots in similar situations.

While nobody expects St. John’s to make half of their 3’s the rest of the way, making more than a third of them will prove to be a tremendous asset down the stretch.

Outlook

After a well deserved week off, the Red Storm will pick up again on Wednesday, February 21, in Milwaukee for a rematch with the Marquette Golden Eagles (Big East 5-8, overall 14-11) at 8:30 PM EST.