On Senior Night, senior Max Strus exploded for 43 to carry DePaul to the season sweep over St. John’s by the score of 92-83.
After the foul-plagued game, the Red Storm fall to 8-9 in conference and 20-10 overall, while DePaul improves to 6-10 in conference and 14-13 overall. This loss puts the Red Storm in a real danger zone with respect to the NCAA Tournament.
In the first half, St. John’s received both the benefits and the cost of aggressive defense. The Red Storm defense forced DePaul to play out of sorts, turning the ball over 10 times in the half. St. John’s converted those turnovers into 11 points.
Seemed like St. John’s was on their way to a win that would solidify their NCAA Tournament resume.
However the cost of the aggressive defense — and playing against a physical team — was fouls. St. John’s went into the break with 17 total fouls and seven players with at least two fouls.
St. John’s played ten players in the half, partly out of necessity.
That depth was highlighted by Josh Roberts. After scoring a career high against Xavier, Roberts received the spot start with Mustapha Heron still working his way back from a knee injury.
Roberts played the simple but integral role of defense, grabbing boards and finishing at the rim which he converted into two points (1/1 FG) and three rebounds in the half. Roberts was also key in shoring up St. John’s rebounding weakness. DePaul only grabbed five offensive rebounds in the half.
Paul Reed, who gashed the Johnnies in the first game, was held to four points, though Femi Oljuobi, who had a season-high in the first matchup, had 10.
Shamorie Ponds had a seven-point burst to end a quiet half; St. John’s led 42-33 at the half.
But DePaul’s Max Strus started the half going back and forth with the Red Storm’s Ponds. With the Demons taking advantage of transition opportunities, Strus, helped by Olujobi and Reed, tied the game up prior to the second media timeout.
With St. John’s foul trouble, and perhaps an inability to make him catch the ball in an uncomfortable position, Strus found room offensively and capitalized for the entire half, putting on a performance the scouts in attendance likely took notice of.. Strus finished the half with 36 points (13/16 FG, 5/8 3PT).
With Roberts, Clark and others in foul trouble, the Blue Demons grabbed seven offensive rebounds and converted those into 12 second chance points in the second half.
Shamorie Ponds, after not scoring before the first half’s U4 timeout, had an effective second half scoring 20 (5/9 FG, 2/4 3PT).
His efforts kept St. John’s close, until the Blue Demons found a way to quiet his scoring in the final four minutes. Ponds tied the game up with a pair of free throws at 74; he took one shot and didn’t connect until the Red Storm were down 10 points, with less than a minute left in the game.
The Blue Demons went 8 of 9 from the field to close out the game, while St. John’s only had 2 field goal in the final 5 minutes with both going down in the final 30 seconds.
DePaul wins the season series against St. John’s, 92-83. St. John’s has a week to prepare for the regular season finale against Xavier in Cincinnati next week.
St. John’s Red Storm
Shamorie Ponds: 29 points (8/15 FG, 4/7 3PT), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers
LJ Figueroa: 13 points (6/11 FG, 1/3 3PT), 5 rebounds, 1 assist
Marvin Clark II: 13 points (4/8 FG, 3/5 3PT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover
Max Strus: career-high 43 points (14/22 FG, 6/10 3PT), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers
Femi Olujobi: 23 points (8/10 FG), 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers