It was a homecoming game for St. John’s guard Marcus LoVett, as he returned to the state where he played high school ball. The former Morgan Park guard scored a game-high 22 points to lead the St. John’s Red Storm to a 79-73 victory over the DePaul Blue Demons.
The game started out on the wrong foot for the Johnnies as they couldn’t muster any offense for the first couple of minutes. DePaul took advantage of that, jumping out to a 7-0 lead, prompting Chris Mullin to burn a timeout right at the start of the game. But soon enough, shots started falling for the Red Storm. The improved offense was the pivotal factor in an 11-0 run that helped them eventually tie the game at 24 with seven minutes left in the first half. Then, suddenly, the Red Storm went cold again, going on a five-minute scoring drought near the end of the half. They also only hit two of their final nine attempts from the field.
Despite the cold end to the half, St. John’s was only down seven at the half with score being 40-33.
It was a battle of the two offensive stars for both teams in the first half. Eli Cain led DePaul with nine points in the half and the Red Storm’s outstanding freshman Shamorie Ponds matched that scoring total for his team. But it was LoVett who led the way for St. John’s in the first half. He scored 10 points while shooting 50 percent from the field (4-8 FG) and provided good scoring support for Ponds.
Malik Ellison also pitched in offensively with six assists, registering that many dimes as DePaul did as a team in the first half.
Sadly, the same couldn’t be said about Cain’s backcourt mate Billy Garrett Jr. He spent some time on the bench due to foul trouble but DePaul got some unexpected scoring help from backup Chris Harrison-Docks. The fifth-year senior scored nine points in the half, knocking down two three’s in the process. It was a very efficient six minutes for Harrison-Docks and something that really helped DePaul keep the lead in the opening half. Tre’Darius McCallum was the leading man on the boards for DePaul, grabbing five boards to go along with his seven points.
The second half didn’t start the same way for DePaul. It was the exact opposite. Their first four possessions resulted in three turnovers and a non-goaltending call that brought jeers from the Allstate Arena crowd. With DePaul having trouble on the other end, St. John’s took advantage. Bashir Ahmed opened the second half by knocking down two threes to open the half and get the Red Storm back into the game. That, combined with some DePaul foul trouble, helped SJU tie the game at 51 with under 12 minutes remaining, setting up for a great finish at Allstate Arena.
St. John’s looked like they were going to pull away in the second half, stretching their lead to seven with 5:30 left. But Cain responded with a 3-point play to make things interesting again. Cain went on a tear, scoring 10 straight points to bring the Blue Demons back to within two.
But trouble ensued when the star guard pulled up and started grabbing his calf.
With Cain out, DePaul would have to find their offense from somewhere else. But that turned out not to be the case as DePaul failed to find quality shots and it allowed St. John’s to extend their lead to five with under two minutes remaining. They were able to keep that lead for the rest of the game as DePaul couldn’t find stops on the other end.
In the end, it was a 79-73 win for the Red Storm and their second straight in Big East play.
3 things we learned
Big second half for Bashir Ahmed
With St. John’s down at halftime, it was Bashir Ahmed who got the Red Storm back into the game. He got hot from 3-point land hitting four 3-pointers and grabbing five rebounds to finish with 14 points in the game. His 3-pointers were what helped spark St. John’s to retake the lead in the second half and that combined with DePaul’s stagnant offense led to them getting the win.
Protecting the rim
It was a block party for the St. John’s bigs in this game. The Red Storm are the best team in the Big East in blocking shots and it’s not even close. They lead the Big East in blocks per game with an average of 6.93 per game, a whole block ahead of second ranked Georgetown, and showed it here today. The Johnnies swatted away nine DePaul shots led by Tariq Owens who had a game-high four. Owens also had a monster block late to help seal the victory and let Allstate Arena know it as he screamed down the court.
Trouble for Cain
With Eli Cain going down late in the second half, DePaul’s lack of secondary scoring was exposed once again. The Blue Demons offense looked stagnant and it forced both McCallum and Garrett Jr. to take some very tough shots in the lane. DePaul needs to find another secondary scorer to relive the pressure off of Cain. Plus, if Cain misses time with injury, many will wonder where DePaul will find their offense. Will someone step up?