Game 2 of 10 in the Big East tournament definitely felt like a Red Storm home game. Despite the away atmosphere, DePaul got out to a 12-2 start led by 6 points from star Javon Freeman-Liberty.
St. John’s star Julian Champagnie countered the Blue Demons’ hot start with a 4-0 run of his own. At the world’s most famous arena, the stars come out to shine. Early in this one, it was clear that would be the case.
Champagnie’s run was carried by the rest of the Red Storm, as DePaul’s once 10 point lead shrank to just 1. After a Yor Anei putback layup, a Montez Mathis 3 would tie the game up at 14.
In the middle portion of the first half, Stef Smith came alive. After transferring to St. John’s from Vermont, Smith had struggled to be consistent. He definitely found his stride at the Garden. With Smith’s significant contributions, the Red Storm opened up a 24-17 lead with 8:34 left in the first half.
The big question this year had been if DePaul could answer the big runs from opponents. With their backs against the wall down 26-17, the Blue Demons gave themselves some breathing room. The once 9 point St. John’s lead collapsed down to 2 with a little over 6 minutes remaining in the half.
To no avail, Champagnie took the game back into his own hands, going on another personal run. This time, 7-0. At the final media timeout of the first half, backed by 14 total points from Julian Champagnie, St. John’s grew its lead to 33-24.
To make matters worse for the Blue Demons, David Jones picked up his 3rd personal foul with a little more than 4 minutes remaining in the first half. To make matters even worse, St. John’s simply could not miss from the field.
To keep the first half short and sweet, St. John’s made its shots and DePaul didn’t. St. John’s did not play sloppy, DePaul did. That resulted in a lopsided 49-29 score in favor of the Red Storm.
As you can tell by the final score, the second half was not much different, maybe even a little worse. We’ll keep it at that.
It is sad to see DePaul go out like this. The Blue Demons did a great job at the end of the season, but reverted back to their start of Big East form in this game. For the seniors (Javon Freeman-Liberty, Courvoisier McCauley, Brandon Johnson, and Shaheed Medlock), this is a brutal way to go out. I will say this though... the 2021-22 DePaul team was the ground floor of the terrific future in store. I am certain that the Tony Stubblefield era will bring back nostalgia circa the back half of the Ray Meyer era. With the recruitment of 4 star shooting guard Zion Cruz and crystal ball projection of 4 star combo guard Judah Mintz, the sky is the limit for the Blue Demons.
As for St. John’s, the Red Storm will play (2) Villanova tomorrow at 7pm ET. Unbelievable performance put on tonight by St. John’s and Julian Champagnie in particular, who scored 26 points. After high aspirations in the preseason, St. John’s became an afterthought heading into the Big East tournament. After tonight’s whooping, I can assure you that the Red Storm will be on the forefront of many team’s minds.