The Creighton loss was deflating, but the games still go on. St. John’s has a chance to play themselves into the bubble conversation with more wins — and no more bad losses.
Despite being on the road, losing to DePaul would be a bad loss, and the Johnnies’ business trip to the Windy City is an important one. The team needs to get back on track (we have said that before), needs to find consistency (we’ve said that before), and needs a crucial win (we’ve — you know the rest).
Smarting from a game that was in their grasp, St. John’s has a chance at a win against a team at the bottom of the standings with absolutely nothing to lose, and coming off of a tough win against a desperate Georgetown team. Can St. John’s put the Demons in a hole and come away with a victory?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (15-12, 7-9 Big East) vs. DePaul Blue Demons (13-14, 4-13 Big East)
When: Sunday, February 27, 2022, 5:00 PM
Where: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL
Odds: St. John’s -1.5
Last Matchup: St. John’s and DePaul traded blows and the Johnnies won a high-scoring affair.
Since We Last Met...
DePaul Since the First Matchup
The Blue Demons have pulled out tight wins against Seton Hall and Xavier, along with beating Georgetown twice. They are tough, resilient and competitive, even if their outside shooting fails them.
With wing David Jones injured (ankle), the Blue Demons are on their ninth starting lineup; they are leaning on Jalen Terry along with Javon Freeman-Liberty. Terry is averaging over three assists per game and showing the talent that made him a coveted recruit. Courvoisier McCauley did not play in the first matchup against St. John’s, but the former Division II star has seen increasing minutes for the Demons. He has scored in double digits in five of his last seven games.
Struggling to shoot from outside the arc, but vicious at the rim, DePaul is long, active and aggressive in transition. They will look for offensive rebounds, and, despite their lack of success at the rim, the number of times they try means that a bulk of their points come from the free throw line.
St. John’s Since the First Matchup
St. John’s followed up the close DePaul win by losing two in a row. Then winning one and... losing two in a row. Then winning one and... losing two in a row. Then they got Butler and Georgetown back-to-back before... losing two in a row. The Red Storm finally won consecutive games, but fell to Creighton earlier this week.
Can the Johnnies go without another two-game losing streak? It will go a long way to ending the season with a winning record, of course, and could keep them in contention for an NIT bid.
The Red Storm have struggled to find consistency. The ever-consistent Julian Champagnie lost touch on his shot, and the team has not had enough offense to make up for it. Despite driving to the paint repeatedly, the Johnnies also do not draw fouls, and when they do, they have been the Big East’s worst free-throw shooting team in conference play.
Relative to the rest of the league, the defense has been okay, but the team cannot string stops together consistently enough.
In 13 games (out of 15) that he has played since going 3/6 from deep against DePaul, Posh Alexander has hit just one three-pointer; he is shooting 18% from beyond the arc. If you are wondering, Julian Champagnie is shooting 29% from beyond the arc. That kind of shooting from the Red Storm’s two stars make it hard to make a complete team effort; the Johnnies depend on those two to make things happen on offense.
Keys to the Game
Physical without fouling. Whether Joel Soriano, who missed the last game with an injury, plays or not, St. John’s needs to play without fouling . The Blue Demons are active, especially on the offensive glass, and are very physical and competitive. If St. John’s sends DePaul to the line repeatedly, foul trouble — and easy points — will grow.
React faster, finish the play. St. John’s is solid at attacking, cutting without the ball, and running on the fast break. But at times, they struggle to finish at the rim, which will be a real problem against the Blue Demons. The team has to be sharp in running their offense and make the shots count.
Complete team effort. The Red Storm have struggled to get a complete effort from all their offensive players. If the team can get shots to fall from Champagnie and Wheeler, they can set up their pressure defense — and will look much better on both sides of the ball.
St. John’s wins 80-78 in a close one.