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St. John’s advances against DePaul, 82-74

Red Storm’s superior defense led to a win in the Big East Tournament

Wendell Cruz

St. John’s innovative defense in the second half led St. John’s to a 82-74 victory.

The Red Storm did not make it easy for themselves by playing their way into the first round of the Big East tournament. However, St. John’s capitalized on the opportunity and this win over DePaul may prove to be a game that got the Red Storm back to their winning ways.

St. John’s looks to beat Marquette for a third time tomorrow at 7:00 PM back at the Garden.

In the first half, St. John’s defense was key. The Red Storm held DePaul to 38% from the field, and an abysmal 9% from three.

Justin Simon set the tone defensively and did so early. After Max Strus lit St. John’s up to the tune of 43 points in their last meeting, Simon made the senior shooter irrelevant in the half. Simon almost singlehandedly held Strus to only 6 points (2/4 FG, 1/4 3PT) at the half.

Simon also proved to be a nightmare for Strus on the other end of the floor by scoring 12 (4/8 FG, 0/1 3PT) leading the way for the Johnnies.

Wendell Cruz

Offensively, St. John’s attacked the basket for stretches and converted at the free throw line. The Johnnies finished at the rim 9 times and got to the free throw line 10 times with Simon and Mustapha Heron attempting five apiece.

Despite St. John’s success in shutting down Strus and producing a decent offensive half, the Red Storm had an Eli Cain problem. Cain led all scorers in the half by putting up 16 points (5/11 FG, 0/3 3PT) keeping DePaul within striking distance of St. John’s with the Johnnies leading only 39-35 at the break.

In the second half, St. John’s had Shamorie Ponds guard Devin Gage with Ponds doubling anyone else who caught the ball. With Cain regularly doubled anytime he touched the ball, the Ponds double-team effectively mitigated the Eli Cain problem without having to pull Simon off of Strus.

Devin Gage was not able to efficiently take advantage of all the space and open looks scoring 14 points (7/13 FG, 0/1 3PT) on 13 shots in the half.

With DePaul’s offense incapacitated, St. John’s methodically pulled away.

The ball movement for the Johnnies improved in the second half, as St. John’s accumulated 8 assists on 17 made field goals in the half.

Wendell Cruz

Further, St. John’s kept getting to the rim in the second half converting 9 of their 13 attempts at the hoop.

In addition to being a key defender, Ponds led the way offensively in the second half. Not only did Ponds score 11 (4/6 FG, 2/3 3PT) in the half, but he also dished out 5 assists and grabbed 3 boards.

Forcing turnovers let to several of those attempts at the basket, as DePaul turned the ball over 7 times and St. John’s converted those into 10 points off turnovers.

St. John’s built up a 17 point lead with just over 4 minutes remaining. Coach Mullin began to pull his starters with a couple minutes remaining, and St. John’s picks up the win, 82-74.

Wendell Cruz

St. John’s Red Storm

Shamorie Ponds: 18 points (7/11 FG, 3/4 3PT), 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 turnover

Justin Simon: 18 points (7/15 FG, 0/1 3PT), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 turnovers

Mustapha Heron: 18 points (6/11 FG, 1/2 3PT), 7 rebounds, 1 turnover

DePaul Blue Demons

Eli Cain: 23 points (7/15 FG, 1/6 3PT), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover

Devin Gage: 19 points (9/20 FG, 0/2 3PT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers